Synopsis: Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.
While I read ASHFALL, I couldn't help but recall scenes from one of my favorite books, The Road by Cormac Macarthy (reviewed here). Only, in this case, the writing is more accessible, especially to the younger audience for which it is intended.
I received this book for review, and the cover caught my attention, but it wasn't until I read Miss Remmers' Review that I picked it up. (Thank you again, Reagan!) And once I picked it up, I could not put it down. The only time I think I glanced up from the book was to ask my husband, "Could the supervolcano at Yellowstone actually erupt?" or, "How do we get water if we lose power and the generator?" or ,"Do you think we need a gun for protection in case of a cataclysmic event and everyone around us loses their minds?"
This is what happens to Alex, or more appropriately, what happens around Alex. The adults around him have fallen victim to one of the most devastating side-effects of a crisis - panic. The ugliness these people demonstrate is enough to make any person give up hope. Instead, Alex pushes forward, despite the dark skies, lack of natural resources, and unknown.
"The volcano had taken our homes, our food, our automobiles, and our airplanes, but it hadn't taken our humanity. No, we'd given that up on our own."
He sets out on a journey to find his family, meeting both hope and despair along the way. Most importantly, he meets Darla. She is one of the best female characters I have discovered all year. She's smart and practical, tough yet sensitive, and she becomes the one person in this ugly unknown world that Alex can trust.
Even though Alex is a typical teenager who fights with his sister and rebels against his parents, he is also a black belt in Taekwondo. As someone whose sons are currently enrolled in classes at the local dojang, I am learning that martial arts is more than punches, kicks, and defense. It's about hard work, commitment, and character. Alex is obviously a product of that.
I don't want to give too much of the storyline away, because I really want you to read this book. It's everything a book should be - interesting, creative, exciting, thoughtful, and suspenseful.
Even though I probably shouldn't have read this book following the Snowtober storm that dumped 16 inches of snow in my part of New Jersey, leaving us without power for a week, I HIGHLY recommend this book for adults and older teens alike. I especially think boys will be grabbed by the collar from the first page.
Ashfall was written to be a trilogy, with the second installment due out in October 2012 from Tanglewood Press.
Parents' Note: Many bookseller websites are recommending this book for ages 12 and up. I have raised that recommended age a bit to 14 years old. It has been a long time since I wrote a parents' note for any book, but I feel the violence in Ashfall may be too graphic for a younger audience. As always, when in doubt, read it yourself before giving it to your teen.
Official Ashfall website
Mike Mullin on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Google+ and his blog
About the Book:
ASHFALL is Mike Mullin's debut novel, which has already received awards and honors. Prior to writing, Mike worked for Proctor and Gamble. Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats.
Disclosure: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for nothing more than an honest review.