The quote on the front cover references the fact that the scariest apocalyptic stories are the ones that could become true. Once I got a few pages in this story sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go because, yeah, this stuff has a remote (very remote so don’t start freaking) chance of actually happening. And what would I be talking about? This story is an apocalyptic adventure that assumes that the supervolcano under Yellowstone erupts and then the story goes on to show what the fallout for the average person is in the event of this happening.
Alex is your average fifteen year old boy who fights with his sister, argues constantly with his mother, gets by in school, takes karate lessons, plays video games and assumes his life is going to go on just swimmingly. That is until one weekend when he argues with his mother and refuses to go along with the family to visit his uncle’s family across the state line into Illinois and it is this moment that a super volcano chooses to change everyone’s lives forever.
When it happens, Alex doesn’t know what is going on because it all starts out with the inexplicable. From the moment something causes his house to cave in on one side and catch fire thus sending him out into a chaotic and terrifying new world on his own, Alex’s feet are set on a survival-style adventure as he sets out to find his family. He must cross eastern Iowa and get over the Mississippi River into Illinois through a landscape that is devoid of most of the resources that used to be available. Ashfall knee-deep in places covers and smothers everything. He must scrounge for water, food and shelter all the while watching out for those scavengers who take advantage of the situation to rob and loot. He goes from one exciting moment to the next just doing what he can to keep going. He gets some help along the way and some setbacks, but he learns to that sometimes safety is an illusion and reaching a goal is not always the end, but just the beginning of another new goal.
The plot and pacing of this one were so well done that I couldn’t set the book down once it really got started. I’m not a scientist, but all the descriptive stuff about how the volcanic explosion effected things sure rang true with me. The scenes of how people acted and what the government was doing seemed bang on too. I got a little shiver when I closed the book just thinking about all that went on in the story which is the biggest compliment I can give the author.
As to the characters, Alex is the main character. It is his narrative voice and through his eyes that the story is told. It was like a coming of age tale. I loved how Alex grew from beginning to the end. He went from tech-dependent city boy to learning how to become a hunter-gatherer like things were before when people had to live by ingenuity and survival lore. He learns that he has to do for himself and he has to be able to protect himself. Alex was my hero.
Toward the middle of the story, Alex acquired a friend, Darla. Darla was an awesome heroine and great for Alex. At first, she is this snarky girl who seems to already have the survival skills that Alex is just starting to pick up. He takes all her insults so he can humbly learn from her and in the process they become friends. She mellows as she learns to respect that Alex has something to contribute too and that he has a strength that he can share when she needs it. It was sweet seeing their friendship become something more.
As this is a YA book, I just want to point out a few things for younger readers to consider. The book contains a moderate amount of violence including murder and a rape that isn’t detailed, but present. There is a moderate amount of swearing too. It also has a few sexual situations that are mentioned with a little description before fading to black.
All in all, I found this a thrilling apocalyptic adventure and I am so glad that the second book in the trilogy is already available.
Review by Sophia Rose
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