Ashes - Ilsa J. Bick
Oh . . .

I was so ready to give this book 5 solid, beautiful stars. I was so ready.

Until I got about halfway and it was as if some undistinguished dystopian author ran up to Bick, snatched her pen, said, "I got this," and wrote the rest of the novel in the style of every other YA book out there, adding a second love interest, 15+ unnecessary characters, what seemed like a whole other plot, and took away what I loved (did I mention absolutely loved)about the book's first half.

Basically, the first half of the book: 5 stars.
Second half: 2 stars. Maybe less. I can't decide right now. Talk to me later after I recover from this heartbreak and betrayal and downed at least 3 cups of tea.

However, let's return to the glorious, dark, and awesome 250 pages of Ashes. Gosh, I wanted to run up to my friends and shove this thing into their faces, waving it around and screaming. I wanted to wail its praises and everything. I mean, it's not without its flaws, certainly--the prose is somewhat clunky, especially in action scenes, where sentences continue to be very long and flowery, taking me out of the scene and the energy; not to mention that the Minnesota was described literally as a "lumberjack" wearing plaid and a turtleneck. I'm surprised Bick didn't take a swing at his accent, too. But maybe I'm just sore because I'm a Minnesotan myself . . .

In any case, I loved the slow and simplistic approach to the beginning, especially with Alex's brain tumor and the introduction of the zombies and the three main characters' predicament. And what I love most is that the zombie cause is explained here, and in a way that's actually quite possible, or more believable that in most stories. Not to mention I actually get to experience it happening! That's so fascinating (in a sick, horrid way). Still going on about this brilliant first half, the character relationships were amazingly done. The growth between all of them made me melt into this puddle of emotions. Really, it did. I absolutely adored the relationship between Tom and Ellie, I can't emphasize that enough. It was so real and sweet, and so refreshing compared to most relationships emphasized in YA books published today (AKA: romance romance ROMANCE ROMANCE DID I MENTION?).

So the most disappointing aspect about when the book switched gears completely was when all that was lost, and Bick gave up those subtle and beautiful relationships for the shallow standard YA garble that's swarming the shelves everywhere. Around page 250, I swear that's when it happens, smack in the middle of the book, everything changes. I wanted to run up and help the Ents release the river and drown what was once beautiful but now had started to stink (forgive me for this reference, I really just had to say it!).

Had the author just decided three characters weren't enough to carry a plot? I was shocked. Really, I was completely thrown when I had to deal with all these new characters thrusted upon me with no warning and was expected to care for them in some way. Why would I care? Why should I care? This whole town of Rule is just another dystopian city setup, a horrible city disguised as something nice (a ruse everyone can see through right away, so why the lengthy shtick at all?) that carries on for another 200 pages. Like I said earlier, another love interest is added, I assume because the concept of two love interests is soin fashion right now, with a whole bunch of random super powers and random dogs and random side plots and characters that really don't seem to have any immediacy or point right now. Maybe they do in the future, but it doesn't seem all that important to me. The plot in the beginning was so tight, so pressing and beautiful (yes, that's probably the 50th time I've used that word to describe the first 250), and then it's completely disregarded for a disorganized mess--for what? To set up something else? To add some sparkle?

The zombies seemed an afterthought in this part, even. Really, an afterthought; as in, mentioned at the very end. Oh yeah, this book has to do with zombies! I forgot!

I almost want to cry I feel so betrayed.