Ashes, by Ilsa J. Bick (2011)

Genre: Horror
Interest Level: 16 to adult
AshesYoung adult fiction, meet Walking Dead. Holy moly, this is a suspenseful, horrifying, gripping and disgusting story. Disgusting in that Ms. Bick doesn’t pull any punches in describing the zombie-like eating of the dead. If you don’t mind a little gore with your dystopian fiction, you will love this book. A series of electromagnetic pulses destroys most electronics on the planet, taking down power grids, cars, water pumps, gas wells, planes – you name it. The world has come to a halt, and that’s not all. For some reason yet to be revealed, most people aged 20 to 65 drop dead, and teens turn into live zombie-like creatures that attack and eat. Dogs, people, wolves, what have you. They are the Changed. For some reason yet to be revealed, a few teens and young adults are Spared. One of them is our heroine, Alex, who happens to be hiking in the woods of Wisconsin when the trouble starts. She’s better equipped than most, and joins a couple of other survivors (an eight-year-old girl named Ellie, and a young soldier named Tom), hoping to find a haven from the madness. It doesn’t go quite as planned. The gore is a bit heavy-handed for young readers; it was tough going at times for me. But her characters are strong, slowly developing into likable and believable actors. Ellie’s tantrums are realistic and, from my perspective, provide levity and relief. Add a complex plot, breakneck pacing and superb writing/editing (just the right number of hints, and nothing obvious to spoil the mystery), and this is a winner. Loved it.
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