Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick


Author: Ilsa J. Bick

Publisher: Egmont USA

5 out of 5 stars

Your chest heaves rapidly, up and down, up and down.  You try to calm down, but it’s hard to do so after what you’ve just seen.  The images are burned into your skull and you don’t think you’ll be forgetting them any time soon.  Your head spins as you try to raise yourself up, but it’s too much and you fall back down again.  The trees around you stand majestic and tall, and if you didn’t know any better you would have thought that everything is normal.  But it’s not.  You can smell the blood, and it’s overwhelming.  You shut your eyes tight and try to ignore the horror of it all, but you can already feel the burning bile coming up your throat.  This can’t be happening you think.  It is happening… and the Changed are on their way.

Alex isn’t your typical teenager.  If you look at her you might think she is.  You could guess that she likes hanging out with her friends, and that she’s into music.  She might even play a sport, and be quite good at it too.  But Alex is none of those things.  She has been hardened by the burden of life, and been forced to mature far too quickly for one so young.  If you pulled away all of her layers you would see that her parents are both dead, her life is on stand-by, and she has a monster living inside of her that can’t be tamed- cancer.

To escape from it all, Alex decides to take a spontaneous trip to the mountains to go for a little camping trip.  What she thought would be a chance to unwind and think out in nature, ends up being a nightmare.  A sudden, unexpected electromagnetic pulse, the Zap, rips through the forest, killing many its path.  It leaves Alex with a blinding headache, and something unexpected.  Alex can now smell again, a sense that had been eliminated by her numerous cancer treatments.  But more than that, she can smell remarkably well, even sensing emotions through the smells that she encounters.

The Zap has set in motion a whirlwind of events that are about to change everything.  Alex isn’t the only who was affected by the strange Zap.  There are others out there that are starting to transform… into the Changed.  They are becoming feral animals who crave human flesh, and can’t get enough of it.  Alex knows that if she is to survive she can’t get through this on her own.  She bands with the young Ellie, and the veteran soldier Tom.  As they set off to find others, one can’t help but wonder who else is out there?  What does this all mean?  All is revealed in Ilsa J. Bick’s striking tale of one girl’s journey to pick up the ashes after all is lost in, Ashes!

Ashes is an adrenaline rush that you won’t want to end.  I was taken on a wild ride through forests, over rivers, and across state lines that constantly had me on edge and my hackles raised.  Ilsa J. Bick does a spectacular job at keeping the reader in the fog, yet giving out enough to keep me wanting more.  I received Ashes from NetGalley* and I recommend it for older teens, as it might prove to be too intense for younger readers, and they might not fully understand quite everything that is going on.

Ilsa J. Bick knew exactly how to keep me interested, yet not give too much away.  I was constantly led on a trail of clues, and I never knew more than Alex did.  It felt like I was going through surviving the Zap just as she was.  My heart was thumping so loud at times, I thought it would beat right out of my chest.  I could feel the fear slowly building up, and then slamming into me as I realized just what was wrong.  It was thrilling to get to feel on edge throughout Ashes, and never quite knowing what was going to be right around the corner.

Many elements were thrown into Ashes that made it what it is.  I think this book will appeal to a wide range of teens as it has a bit of everything.  There is the sci-fi element, suspense, romance, dystopia, and it shows just what different people would do in a time of crisis.  I couldn’t help wondering if I would have the guts to do what was needed.  Alex herself is a very hardened soul, who can be closed-off around others due to everything she has had to go through in life.  It was interesting to see how certain events brought back memories, or how for once in her life she felt like she could open up to strangers.

The title of the book, Ashes lent itself nicely to the story in general.  There were references to the title that really tied the story together as a whole.  Also, ashes have a deeper meaning to Alex than most people, as she carries around her parent’s ashes with her.  I can’t wait to read even more in the sequel, Shadows.

It would have been nice to have seen a little more background provided for the Zap.  There wasn’t very much of an explanation given to why it swept across the land.  However, I feel that by not fully explaining the Zap, I only knew as much as Alex did, and that helped to put me even more into the story.  Also, even though Alex is a closed-off person, I would have liked to have learned more about her past as the story went on.  Now and then little snippets of memories would pop up, but I feel that I would have been able to connect with Alex even better if I knew more about her before the Zap.  It was interesting to get to learn about her on a whole new level though, as she struggled to survive, and I also learned about her by many of the choices she made and actions she took.

Ashes is a heart-stopping voyage of one girl’s fight to stay alive, when she is one of the few left.  Nothing is as it seems in this tale full of twists and turns.  Join Alex, as she learns just what really is ahead of her in, Ashes!

-This is T.B. with Another Book Back on the Shelf…
Until Next Time, Keep Reading!

*I received this book from NetGalley, a website on which you can request free advanced reader copies of books. I received Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick in exchange for my honest review.  Thank you NetGalley!

Check out Ilsa J. Bick's website at


  1. Wasn't Ashes terrifying! Not knowing what had happened or why it happened made for pretty anxious moments. I can't wait to see what will happen to Alex, especially with that cliffhanger ending. Great review Tessa!

  2. Wow, I love the way you describe this! It sounds so exciting. I also love when authors strike the perfect balance between telling you just enough information but also withholding just enough information. Sounds like this one hits the mark.

  3. Okay, so I definitely need to read this one soon! It sounds so awesome,

    Fabulous review!

  4. WOW! your description of how you felt while reading the book was excellent. Great review Tessa!

  5. Tessa, I really just ADORE your reviews! They're always so detailed and always make a book sound incredibly awesome! :)

    Ashes seems like such an amazing book! I love the whole premise, and the execution must be really well done to have earned 5 shiny stars!

    Awesome review, Tessa! I'm glad that you liked it -- now it's my turn to pick it up! ;)

  6. Great, great review!! This cover always put me off a little bit, but now that I know what it's about, it sounds really interesting (and action packed). I love stories with a mixture of genres, so I'll definitely have to look this one up at the bookstore. Thanks T.B.
    Ninja Girl

  7. I found the first part of this book to be exciting and action packed too. Some scenes were so intense; I think the author has a definite talent with setting up and plotting action scenes. Despite not liking the end so much, I still really want to read the sequel!

  8. Your review practically had me jumping up and down, I could feel your excitement! I don't care for dystopians and this one reminds me of Stephen King's The Stand, but if you promise it's not that scary, I might be tempted. Just because you like it so much! Great review!


  9. I just barely bought this book and cannot wait to read it. I loved the author's first book - I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this one, too!

  10. Laura (All of Everything)- Thanks! Ashes definitely kept me on my toes, and there were so many instances were I was biting my nails with worry for Alex! I'm dying to find out what happens in the sequel :D

    Small Review- Ashes kept me intrigued, and I definitely felt like a mouse with a piece of cheese just beyond reach. I always knew enough to make me keep reading. I loved it!

    YA Book Queen- Thanks! I definitely hope you get a chance to read this one soon, and I can't wait to hear what you think of it!

    Kira- Thanks so much! I'm glad I was able to express just how I felt about this one.

    Mimi Valentine- Aww, thanks so much Mimi! This one definitely deserved the 5 shiny stars in my opinion, and I hope you think so too!

    Ninja Girl- The cover definitely is unnerving, but it fits the book to a T! I love it as well when authors combine genres into one book, as it tends to have more of what I love! I hope you enjoy this one!

    Aylee- I agree, I think Ilsa J. Bick is very good at getting the reader pumped about the story and characters, and she knows just how to pull the rug from under your feet leaving the reader bewildered and shocked. Looking forward to that sequel as well :)

    Buried In Books- Yay, I'm glad you got so excited over this one! Hmm, I wouldn't say it's not scary, but it definitely sent chills down my spine at times. I think this one will be an entertaining thriller that will always have you second-guessing everything. Thanks Heather and I hope you give it a try!

    Susan- I can't wait to hear what you think of Ashes! I'm really excited to read Bick's first book as well, and I'm glad you loved it so much! Thanks for stopping by!


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