Thursday, June 23, 2011

Review: Ashes, Ashes

Jo Treggiari
Young Adult/Dystopian
343 pages
Available Now
Received from publisher for review

Lucy's been on her own in the wilderness of Central Park since the plague wiped out her entire family and almost the entire human population. Now, she just tries to survive day to day, braving unpredictable weather and rabid dogs just to stay hidden and out of reach of the Sweepers.

When a young man named Aiden comes to her rescue as she's running from a canine hunting party, she begins to remember just how much she enjoys social interaction. Deciding to join the fairly large group of people with whom Aiden has made his home, Lucy throws herself into her daily chores and the comfort of companionship.

Her brief respite is shattered however when the Sweepers repeatedly attack their camp, taking select individuals as though they are searching for something or someone in particular. When too many of their friends get taken, Lucy and Aiden decide to attempt a rescue, but what they don't realize is that's what the Sweepers have been hoping for all along since Lucy is the person they need most.

Though Ashes, Ashes presents us with a bleak outlook with regard to the physical state of our world in the future–cities and enormous groups of people decimated by disease, starvation, and forces of nature–we are also given a story lined with hope as we watch the survivors carry on in the face of so much death. First, we get to meet and watch young Lucy spend her days completing tasks we'd like to think we'd be capable of in her situation but yet are not entirely convinced the strength of our resolve would even begin to rival hers. Her commitment to survival helps bolster us against such a desolate environment, her will as a single individual against an empty and frightening world earning our respect and admiration. Then, we are also granted access to a small commune of people after our initial more solitary time with Lucy, able to bear witness to not just the strength of one human being but of humanity as a whole. Where there was a lone survivor before there now stand many, and reading as Lucy starts to recall what it's like to have family lets light filter into the gray and black of a once vibrant city.

Lucy is an incredibly strong young woman, fighting each day to live in a world that could so easily kill her either through an outright attack or by denying her the things she needs to make it through each day. We get brief flashes back to her life before the plague, these little snippets letting us know there's something of great importance about a girl who's been the one out of every 999,999 to live. Her relationship with Aiden is sweet though not overly emotional; their moments together providing a nice warmth but not necessarily setting us on fire or branding us with the memory of their time together. This is a story that seems a bit stronger in plot than in characterization, our connection to any of the characters more superficial reactions to the tragedy of their circumstance than deep-rooted and gut-wrenching attachment, but we are certainly involved in their lives and concerned for their future nonetheless.

While the survival element of this tale is thoroughly engrossing, the Sweepers themselves and the events surrounding the final showdown with them present just a few minor drawbacks. It becomes glaringly obvious to us at the end, once we learn how vital Lucy is to the continuation of humanity should the plague ever mutate and return, that the end goal of finding a cure has become paramount to the doctor in charge of the Sweepers, and the means by which she achieves that goal are irrelevant provided progress is made. Because of this, we think we're going to have a major confrontation between Lucy and a woman who feels science is more important than a handful of human lives no matter how few of them remain, yet she escapes fairly easily and returns home with Aiden seemingly unworried about any future attacks even knowing her importance to the doctor's research.

Additionally, the doctor and her team are extraordinarily well-stocked with food and supplies while everyone else has resorted to primitive hunting and gathering methods, and we are given no explanation as to how they are maintaining their quality of life and receiving shipments of food and medical equipment. Overall, the buildup to the conclusion is well done and keeps us glued to the pages, the events at the end just seem to get resolved with more ease than we are expecting given the fanatical nature of the doctor, and we are left just a little off-kilter as we wonder if she really is going to let Lucy go with so little fight.

Rating: 3.5/5


  1. Cannot wait to read Ashes, Ashes! Great review.

  2. hmmm...I'm really looking forward to reading this, but I'm glad to have seen your review regarding the end being a little too easy, and the few issues with things not being explained well enough. I'll keep that in mind when I pick this up!

  3. Ashes, Ashes seems to have an interesting premise with a strong protagonist which I always appreciate. Thanks for the review!

  4. You make me want to read a book like this again. I do like when the world ends with a bang. it's so scary, in a good way

  5. I have been thinking about getting this as I love the sound of the premise. But now I am a little nervous as it still sounds good but it doesn't sound exceptional like I was thinking. Hmmmm....

    Thanks for your honest review.

  6. One of the things I love most about post-apocalyptics is seeing how the characters rise to the challenge, the horror. I don't think I would be capable of rivalling Lucy's strength either! Looking forward to reading this one :)

  7. This sounds like an interesting book, although not the type of thing I'd probably like. I love how strong Lucy sounds. An interesting society where Doctors have so much power. My husband (an anesthesiologist) would like that :-)

  8. I have been waiting to read this book for the longest time! Thanks for the review! I have some very high expectations for it. Though I hope it doesn't let me down.

  9. Alex - Thanks! Hope you enjoy it:)

    Denise - You're very welcome, thanks for always leaving a comment!

    Allison - I was really enjoying it right up till the end, then things just fell into place so easily when they'd been struggling the entire time. Still a good read though:)

    Misha - I love survival stories so I really liked that part of it, I just had a few questions I wanted answered that never were:)

    Blodeuedd - It's definitely scary. I'm not sure how well I'd survive in the wild. I think my lifespan would tragically short if that happened:)

    Nic - You should definitely get it, you might like it more than me and not be bothered by the things that gave me pause:)

    Aylee - Me too! That's a great way of putting it:)

    Alison - I really liked Lucy and Aiden, they were both interesting characters, I just wanted a little more:)

    Savy - I hope it lives up to them for you!

  10. I SO wanted to read this... but you and a few other of my most trusted book advisers have given it 3/3.5 ratings... Blah!

    <3 you!

  11. It's distopian, you know I'm reading it!!! :)

  12. I'm hoping that there might be a second book as there's so much of the changed world that we still don't know about.

  13. Ashley - It's worth a read, I was just let down a little with the ending:) <3 you!

    Mollie - Haha I figured it might be of interest to you:)

    Jenny - I'm hoping for that too. She definitely left it open for more!

  14. Perhaps the doctor and her minions have some other nefarious diabolical maniacal scheme that involves her escaping!

  15. Hmm, it sounds like Ashes, Ashes has some great parts and some not-so-great parts. The story still sounds fascinating, though, so I'll probably give it a try at some point. Lucy sounds like a fab heroine! :)

  16. Okay, this one's been on my shelf for a little bit now and I really need to read it. Lucy sounds like a fabulous character--I can't imagine surviving something like that when so many people are gone. *shudder* Now, I'm wondering how the doctor was so well supplied...maybe in the next one (if there is another)? LOL--guess I'm so used to series books that I don't even really think about it!
    Great review, as always! Love your writing style.
    Happy reading,
    Mary @ Book Swarm

  17. Hm... I think those same things would have bothered me too when reading it. I still may pick it up, but do the library. At least I'm more informed that there are some questions that won't be answered within the story. I am curious about Lucy tho. :) Great review as always!

  18. Alyssa - Perhaps! It would have been nice to know:)

    Lauren - There were definitely some great parts, the whole survival aspect was really interesting.

    Mary - I can't either. I'm pretty sure I'd die quickly. I'm hoping there's another that touches on a few more things with the Sweepers:)

    Melissa - I just didn't understand why all the survivors are hunting with primitive weapons and growing crops and then the Sweepers and the doctor have cars and electricity and seem to be continually supplied. Huh:)

  19. Hmmm parts of this sounds like something I would love, but I'm a big character fan and the fact that this was lacking in that department is holding me off. I think I'll add it to the TBR, but not near the top :/

  20. The discrepancies do seem quite incongruous with the world building and without a viable explanation would bother me too. Being a reader who loves a good plot I prefer great characters and with so many inconsistencies in the plot I may pass this one.

  21. It's a major book pet peeve of mine when the loose ends get tied up too easily at the ends. That's not to say that I still can't enjoy the book, ie. The DUFF, but *sigh*, sometimes you expect something complicated to have a complicated conclusion. That being said, a 3.5 from you is still decent, so I will likely give it a go! Thanks, Jenny!

  22. I'm a bit conflicted about this book. While I like the premise, the second of the book concerns me especially when things get easily solved. Things aren't suppose to happen easily especially in a dystopian novel. Since you gave it a 3.5, I might be giving it a shot. :)

  23. Lucy sounds like a great character, although the easy ending is a bit bothersome...However, I'll see if my library gets this one in because I am still curious about it!

    Thanks for the honest review! :)

  24. Lucy does sound like a great character but is that enough to carry the whole book? I have enjoyed some dystopian but I think I will pass on this one.

  25. Jenny,

    Have you ever read The Last Survivor's series by Susan Beth Pfeffer? I haven't read Ashes, Ashes, yet but based on what you described, something about this book is reminding me of that series, which I loved.

    It's no secret that I'm a sucker for romances that brand, so I'm sorry to hear that this one didn't quite have that effect, but if it has a stronger plot, I'm sure that makess up for it.

  26. Okay, so the premise of this book sounds AMAZING! I think that I can even forgive the lack of memorable romance (and let me tell you, that is big news for me... ;) ). Thanks for the review Jenny! Goota go add this one to Goodreads!

  27. Hmm, I'm a bit disappointed. I was kind of looking forward to this one. But I think I'll wait a bit as my TBR pile numbers in the 100's and this one doesn't seem to live up to what I thought it would be. I hate a lackluster ending. Is this a series?


  28. Hmm, I'm not a fan of books that get resolved too easily but I still like the sound of this one. I know if something ever happened to the world and I managed to survive, I wouldn't last that long. I very much prefer to stay indoors and that definitely doesn't help with survival skills.

  29. Ashes Ashes definitely is on my wishlist now. Lucy sounds like a heroine I like and the world should be interesting aswell!