Ashfall, by Mike Mullen

Rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Alex, a teenage boy, is left alone for the weekend. And then a super-volcano at Yellowstone National Park explodes and the world dissolves into lawless chaos. Alex is determined to find his parents and sets off across the desolate, oftentimes violent landscape in search of his family. Along the way, Alex discovers the true nature of mankind and himself, learning that some people are inherently good and others are not so good, and deciding what is right and wrong is not always that easy. 

I should start by noting that my geologist friend found the concept a bit unbelievable. But as a non-geologist, I was instantly drawn into what seemed like a potentially realistic plot. By using a natural disaster that readers can imagine actually happening, Mullen was able to create a disturbing picture and explore the depths of humankind.

What I really enjoyed about this book was that Mullen did not make everyone either good or evil – he created scenarios where good and bad lay in a sea of gray. It felt very real.

What I did not like as much about this book was the way it ended. The first 2/3 of the book felt very gritty and honest. I felt for the characters. The last 1/3 read almost like a different book. Yes, I could see the events that played out (don’t worry if you haven’t read it – I won’t reveal what happens) actually happening, but in the context of the rest of the book, I found it a bit odd. It just didn’t flow as well as I would have liked.

Another issue I had was with the girl Alex meets along his way, Darla. I didn’t feel that her character had as much depth as Alex’s and I would have liked to have seen more growth. She felt a bit flat and convenient to me.

All in all, I thought this was a pretty good read. Alex is likable and you can see his growth throughout the book. Reading an apocalyptic book vs. a post-apocalyptic book was a bit refreshing. I enjoyed seeing how quickly society could fall into the state it always starts in when reading a post-apocalyptic book.

If you want more about Ashfall or Mike Mullen, check out this interview on the Forever Young Adult blog. And, for more on the apocalypse, be sure to check out my post this coming Monday on the apocalypse and my not so good chances of survival.