Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari (Review)

REVIEW: ASHES, ASHES by Jo Treggiari

Post-Apocalyptic New York meets I Am Legend - but sadly nowhere near as fun and thrilling as it could have been.

A thrilling tale of adventure, romance, and one girl's unyielding courage through the darkest of nightmares.

Epidemics, floods, droughts--for sixteen-year-old Lucy, the end of the world came and went, taking 99% of the population with it. As the weather continues to rage out of control, and Sweepers clean the streets of plague victims, Lucy survives alone in the wilds of Central Park. But when she's rescued from a pack of hunting dogs by a mysterious boy named Aidan, she reluctantly realizes she can't continue on her own. She joins his band of survivors, yet, a new danger awaits her: the Sweepers are looking for her. There's something special about Lucy, and they will stop at nothing to have her.

Published June 1, 2011 by Scholastic

343 pages


ASHES, ASHES by Jo Treggiari appealed to me because I was growing tired of dystopias, or more correctly, dystopias that are not really true dystopias. BRAVE NEW WORLD is my favorite book ever, so anything that uses the term dystopia in the description is automatically under more scrutiny for me, and sadly, a lot of YA authors, publishers, and bloggers apply the term where it doesn’t fit – and this isn’t really their fault. The definition has been really muddled as of late. Some people have even described the post-apocalyptic world of ASHES, ASHES as dystopian when it isn’t – there was nothing supposedly utopian about it to begin with, nor was there suppression of thoughts or personality or beliefs. Likewise with my other recently reviewed book, DROUGHT – the situation is bad, yes, but it just doesn’t fit the qualifications to be a dystopian society.

And is it just me or do a lot of the bad guys in dystopian novels actually have a point in their evil machinations? They might be Machiavellian, but they’re often times not stupid and actually might possibly be doing the right thing in the wrong way…

But less rant, more review! And there may be minor spoilers, but nothing more than you'd get from reading the synopsis above.

ASHES, ASHES is the story of Lucy, the last survivor from her family who has trekked from New Jersey to the remains of New York City in an attempt to survive. She’s survived floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, and a plague to make it this far, but she’s alone. Lots of bad stuff happens to her, and we are introduced to this as we hear about her back story – she was a loner, forgotten by those around her, and lucky. In New York, living on the edges of the Hudson Sea, she is fending for herself as best as she can. Note, I had some problems with the geography of this book, but since I lived in New York City for two years, this could be why. Unless these earthquakes drastically changed the landscape of New York by thousands of feet… I’ll get to that. And the smallpox vaccine loses its effectiveness after 10 years, so another plot hole. Okay, there were a lot of plot holes.

Lucy has been out on her own for a long time when suddenly, after a year of surviving well on her own, she is discovered by the designated love interest Aidan. I have to admit, he was rather bland in the characterization department, but he draws her back with him towards an encampment halfway into the novel. This is when the action really begins after a slow, somewhat plodding start. It was, though, promising and left me wanting to read more. By the time we meet the other characters, though, the story devolves into obvious turns that can be seen a mile away, and these new characters turn into either shells, forgotten tertiary scenery, or stereotypical foils.

But I give this book one thing. It got me involved in a fun conversation with a friend about guessing where the book was going next, and more often than not, I was either right or came up with something that really would have been more fun.

By the end, I found myself rooting for Lucy to buck convention and go for the much more interesting secondary male character over Aidan. Del, the designated foil of the story, was trite and possessive, but I felt like she was angry at Lucy for trying to claim her boyfriend after a few days of showing up in the camp. I quickly found Lucy to be bratty and hard to connect with because of her actions and her instant attraction to a guy she met while escaping dogs in a tree. And he might have been stalking her. Maybe. There were cat fights over a boy within moments of Lucy’s arrival at the survivor camp, which was stupidly placed two miles away in plain sight from the big bad’s lair. They could have easily left the city, but instead they just set up shop right where the much better equipped devilish scientists could pick them off whenever they needed a test subject.

After ill-conceived escapades, I never felt any connection to the main characters. In fact, I was still hung up on Henry, who we were supposed to believe was just there to flirt until the end of time. He had personality! The author also has a tendency to end the chapter on a cliffhanger, and then completely forget that the cliffhanger happened. I thought this was a bit…odd. By the time we reach the end, our special snowflake Lucy has the chance to save the world…and doesn’t want to. Really? Oh, that might be because the villain is being unreasonable for no conceivable reason. She’s bad for the sake of needing a bad guy.

The ending is wrapped up with neat, convenient little bows, giving a good conclusion but not the one it could have been.

VERDICT: A slow, meticulous buildup leads to catty drama and a dull climax, but if post-apocalyptic girl drama is your thing, don’t miss it. Also suggested for lovers of the words hummock and hillock, they’re used about every other page.


PS. A small cover quip, but the characters and world described look nothing like what the cover portrays. A small nitpick.

EDIT: Okay, I think they must have edited the cover because I have one version here on my page (a good representation of Lucy) and another on my Kindle copy which looks like generic YA heroine. Weeeeird.

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