Ah the apocalypse. Will we ever get tired of reading about you? These days, you can’t turn around in the YA section of the bookstore or library without a posse of post-apocalyptic tales vying for your attention. “Hey, check me out! I’m tough! I’m thrilling! I’ll give you all the doom you’ve ever dreamed of!” Jo Treggiari’s new novel, Ashes, Ashes, is likely to find its way into the hands of doom-lovers, and I doubt they will be disappointed.
Treggiari’s story gets in just about every nasty end-of-the-world scenario you could imagine: epidemics, floods, and droughts have combined to deliver the end of the world to just about everyone. 99% of the planet’s population is gone. Lucy, our heroine, is one of the few survivors. She has been living in what used to be Central Park, barely making it by foraging and hunting. Events conspire to pull her from this isolated existence. She joins with a group of other survivors and soon after, it becomes apparent that they are not safe. A mysterious army known of “Sweepers” is coming after many of those left behind, stealing them away to an unknown fate. Lucy and the others must fight to find their way towards some kind of future together.
This is the kind of book you’ll read in an afternoon if you have the time. It pulls you in. Treggiari is strong at plotting, and really outstanding at describing this post-apocalyptic setting. You can see it and hear it and smell it. This is a very visual read, which I always enjoy and I think is challenging for a writer to achieve consistently from start to finish. I felt that the author really took the time to imagine this world and to create it for us. In some ways, I felt that the characters were just vehicles for the action, and I might have liked to sink into their thoughts and histories and perspectives a bit more throughout the narrative. Not all of the characters came to life for me in the same way as the setting did. There is a bit of everything in this book. It’s a survival story, a post-apocalyptic portrait, a wilderness tale, a mystery, and all this with a hint of romance. Yet it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be or to do too much. It’s satisfying. It’s fun. (Can I say that about a book about plagues and tsunamis and the end of the world? Well, I just did). It’s like a fabulous summer action flick that you are very happy to discover actually has substance. I’ll be reading whatever Jo Treggiari writes next.
Ashes, Ashes is published by Scholastic Press.
(This post is cross-posted at Guys lit Wire)