Genres: Young adult, post-apocalyptic.
A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl’s unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.
Epidemics, floods, droughts—for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she’s rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can’t continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There’s something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.
I had wanted to read Ashes, Ashes for such a long time – it received high ratings when reviews started to emerge so I put at the top of my mental “young adult dystopia ‘must read’ list”. However, now that I’ve read it, I’m not entirely sure it is a dystopian novel. I think people can get confused and think that if it’s a futuristic novel (especially if it’s an apocalyptic novel) then it’s automatically dystopian. While I’m not completely certain (and therefore it shall remain on my YA dystopia list), I personally wouldn’t put it in the dystopian genre. It’s much more like Life as We Knew It. It focuses on life in a post-apocalyptic (or apocalyptic – 99% of the world’s population has been killed off by a terrible plague but there’s no indication that the apocalypse is over and therefore they may not be living in a post-apocalyptic world…). Genres can be tricky things.
Pedantic discussion of genres aside, I really loved Ashes, Ashes. It may not have the dramatic action sequences that similar books have but I think it works really well in this case. There’s a lack of dialogue in the first few chapters, which it has been criticised for, but I cannot see why that is. We watch as sixteen-year-old Lucy attempts to survive alone in the wild. I personally find this sort of storyline fascinating and I think it shows that a story doesn’t necessarily need to constantly have conversations to be exciting and engaging.
Nonetheless, Lucy eventually does make contact with other humans and this is where it begins to get complicated for her. Ashes, Ashes is an inspiring survival story and raises the question of whether it’s better to band together or go it alone. It makes you think “What would I do in this situation?”. I pretty much adored all the characters – Aiden (the love-interest – yes it features romance but it isn’t the main focus of the book, which is important to note), Del (what’s up with her?), Henry (hilarious), as well as Leo, Sammy and Grammalie Rose (extremely admirable characters). I wanted to find out more about them all. It had the same sense of wonder and fear of what was going to happen as in Life As We Knew It but had the added thriller-type intrigue of what exactly do the Sweepers want with members of the camp and why have they taken particular interest in Lucy?
While the ending isn’t perfect, I thought it was satisfactory and it didn’t ruin my overall enjoyment of the novel – I still loved it. It gets points from me for being a standalone novel (so rare these days within YA fiction!) although it doesn’t quite work as well as it could have. Without giving too much away, the climatic ending needed much more detail, which would have most likely made it more exciting, horrifying and perhaps would have pushed it into the dystopian genre. And that’s what we want, right?
Overall, even though I wouldn’t describe this as a dystopian novel, I thoroughly enjoyed Ashes, Ashes and I’d say that it’s still well worth reading. It most likely would still interest fans of young adult dystopia.