Pages: 472 (e-ARC)
Published: October 11, 2011: Tanglewood Press
Many visitors to Yellowstone National Park don’t realize that the boiling hot springs and spraying geysers are caused by an underlying supervolcano. It has erupted three times in the last 2.1 million years, and it will erupt again, changing the earth forever.Review
Fifteen-year-old Alex is home alone when Yellowstone erupts. His town collapses into a nightmare of darkness, ash, and violence, forcing him to flee. He begins a harrowing trek in search of his parents and sister, who were visiting relatives 140 miles away.
Along the way, Alex struggles through a landscape transformed by more than a foot of ash. The disaster brings out the best and worst in people desperate for food, clean water, and shelter. When an escaped convict injures Alex, he searches for a sheltered place where he can wait—to heal or to die. Instead, he finds Darla. Together, they fight to achieve a nearly impossible goal: surviving the supervolcano.
With nonstop action, a little romance, and realistic science, debut author Mike Mullin tells a mesmerizing story. Readers will turn Ashfall’s pages breathlessly, and continue to ponder Alex and Darla’s fate long after they close the book. -From author's website
Yellowstone National Park is home to what's called a 'supervolcano'. When and if it erupts it could bring about the next ice age. For me, natural disasters are so so fascinating. I love watching National Geographic and with all the talk about climate change and what it could mean for humanity, I'm hooked.
In Ashfall, Alex is home for the weekend while his parents and sister visit family. Out of the blue his house is hit with a piece of flying rock *cue explosions, debris, the whole epic gist*, and you're like 'what on earth just happened?!' It literally starts with a bang! After Alex escapes his now destroyed house he learns from his neighbors that there's been an eruption at Yellowstone and he can stay with them until things settle down. Soon after he sets out to try and find his family and that's when the journey really starts.
Ashfall was sort of terrifying. All dystopians and post-apocalyptic books are I think. When these huge epic disasters happen, you don't know how people will react. As ash from the volcano begins to spread across the country, the sun is blotted out, crops start to wither, cars don't start, and animals start dying. The sonic boom from the explosion topples power lines, and the temperature is dropping, foreshadowing an early and very long winter ahead. In a matter of days cities and towns are crippled and people set out to find help. As Alex skis along deserted roads he comes into contact with several people--some good, some not so good. Fear can make people do things they might not do otherwise, which is demonstrated a lot in Ashfall. It was a little depressing to think that humanity would fall so far so fast but I can't say I know it won't happen.
Alex eventually meets Darla, and they set out together, trying to find safety and shelter along the way. The romance that develops her isn't a quick one, and I was glad for that. From Alex's perspective we know he's attracted to her but Darla doesn't give much away, preferring to keep her feelings inside. It's as they spend time together, and begin to look after each other that a friendship blossoms into something more. Darla's one tough chick, independent and resourceful, but she goes through a lot. All they have is each other.
One thing I do have to mention is the pace of the book. Things proceed very steadily throughout the entire book. There were quite a few exciting scenes that really grabbed you but for the most part things are as quiet as the streets the characters walked on. It might be a negative to some but I think it made for a more realistic story as we get to learn more about the characters and the situations they find themselves in. And when things picked up, you got danger and panic and overall adrenaline pumping scenes that had me going page to page to see what would happen next.
Ashfall is a scary imagining of what were to happen if a supervolcano were to erupt. There isn't much action per se, but we get a hopeful perspective from two teenagers as they struggle to survive in this new devastated world. I didn't feel Ashfall ended with a bang, but rather a sort of quiet foreboding of what was coming. It was eerie and sad and hopeful and exciting all at the same time. Alex and Darla are in for a heck of a journey in Ashen Winter, to be released in October, 2012.