Reviews for Ashes

Booklist Reviews 2011 September #2
Seventeen-year-old Alex is alone on a Michigan mountainside when electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) released into the atmosphere above Earth shut down power and communications grids, trigger nuclear devices, and turn most adolescents into flesh-eating zombies. She eventually finds herself safe--or so she thinks--in Rule, where a council of church elders holds sway. But Rule is a town of factions and unease, and what Alex discovers about its undercurrents may kill her. This is an affecting postapocalyptic tale that divides its time between survival story and horror, as when readers encounter the vividly described results of the EMPs and zombie attacks. Bick understands the effects (and affect) she produces, though, and offsets such moments with ordinary things like falling in love, feeling safe, and even fishing. The consequence of the focus on action and incident is limited characterization, but an open ending reassures fans that there will be other opportunities to know Alex and to unravel the mystery of Rule. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
An electromagnetic pulse kills most of the country's population instantly; many of those left become zombielike, "brain-zapped" cannibals. Survivor Alex teams up with eight-year-old Ellie and soldier Tom to search for other people. The trio's deepening bond adds to the already high tension. This horror/survival story (with extremely graphic violence) presents an intriguing take on zombie fiction.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 July #1

When civilization ends and you're faced with an army of face-eating, nuclear-mutant zombies, having a brain tumor doesn't seem so bad.

Alex, orphaned, 17 and dying, decides she's sick of pointless chemo. She bugs out of school for a backpacking trip in the wilderness, determined to make her own end. Just a few days into her trip something terrible happens: A horrible, screeching pain knocks her senseless, kills an elderly backpacker and sends scores of dead birds falling from the sky. Wild dogs in the area seem to have run mad, and did Alex actually see two teenagers eating an old woman? Along with two fellow survivors—bratty middle schooler Ellie and Tom, a young soldier on leave—Alex seeks safety. Alex and Tom are both outdoorsy, but for every cache of weapons and MREs they find, another horrible event takes place. Their gun-toting survivalism only keeps them safe for so long in a post-apocalyptic America in which most of the other young people have been Changed to cannibals. The requisite creepy cultist village raises excellent questions of trust and society. Alex can't survive on her Glock alone; she needs supplies, knowledge, allies and affection.

Splendidly paced apocalyptic zombie horror ends with a thrilling, terrifying cliffhanger and a number of unresolved mysteries. (Horror. 12-15)

Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal BookSmack
It sucks to be Alex. Her parents are dead, and now she is in the last stage of brain cancer. Hiking into the wilderness-presumably to spread her parents' ashes but really to escape another round of treatment-Alex is talking with an older man and his snotty eight-year-old granddaughter, Ellie, when an electromagnetic pulse tears through her body. The pulse kills the man but mysteriously restores Alex's long-missing sense of smell. Not long after, Alex and Ellie see their first Changed, teens whose reaction to the pulse is to become bloodthirsty cannibals. They are joined by Tom, a young Afghanistan war veteran, and the three embark on a quest to find some remnant of humanity. This compulsively readable story plays on the irony that Alex was prepared to die and now struggles to live in a world of badly behaving survivors and ever more awful circumstances. Gentle readers, be warned: as to be expected in any story featuring mass destruction and flesh eaters, loads of viscera pop off the page. The heart-stopping conclusion leaves no doubt that a sequel is in the works. - "35 Going on 13" Booksmack! 9/15/11 (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 July #2

Bick delivers an action-packed tale of an apocalypse unfolding, launching a trilogy with flair. While camping in a national park in Michigan, 17-year-old Alex, a girl coping with a brain tumor and the side effects of its treatment, survives a series of electromagnetic pulses that may have taken out the entire world. Miles from nowhere, she hikes with new companions--an obstinate eight-year-old orphan named Ellie and a young soldier named Tom--as they try to make sense of things. Aside from wrecking their equipment, the pulse has killed most adults and morphed young people into psychotic flesh-eating monsters that are soon dubbed the Changed. Alex is different, too (her formerly dead sense of smell is now nearly supernaturally strong), and the companions worry about their own potential to "Change" as they attempt to find other survivors. Bick (Draw the Dark) doesn't shy away from gore--one woman's guts "boiled out in a dusky, desiccated tangle, like limp spaghetti"--but it doesn't derail the story's progress. If readers have any complaint, it will be with the ending, which only sets up the next book. Ages 14-up. (Sept.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 October

Gr 10 Up--A ragtag group--a teen with an inoperable and terminal brain tumor on a journey to find closure, a young soldier on leave running from personal demons, and an angry little girl whose grandfather has taken her on a backpacking trip after the death of her father--have two important things in common: the electromagnetic pulse that ripped through the sky while they were hiking in the Waucamaw Wilderness didn't kill them, and it did not change them into crazed, flesh-eating zombies. Now they are trying to stay alive and keep as far away from the zombies as possible. However, the greatest threat to their survival may come from other survivors. In the gore, violence, and disturbing societal constructions of this postapocalyptic/zombie thriller, readers will see echoes of Suzanne Collins's "Hunger Games" series (Scholastic), Patrick Ness's "Chaos Walking" series (Candlewick), and James Dashner's "The Maze Runner" series (Delacorte), making this an excellent choice for those searching for more along the same lines. The novel is equal parts horrifying and riveting, and many teens will be compelled to devour it in one sitting. But be forewarned: not a single plot point is wrapped up, so readers who like things neatly solved better wait until the whole trilogy is out.--Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO

[Page 130]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 October
Bick takes the best of post-apocalyptic, zombie fiction, like Cormac McCarthy's The Road (Vintage Books, 2007) and Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead graphic novel series (Image Comics, 2006-2011), and adds the exact thing that has been sorely lacking from those genres: girl power, and in a heaping dose. Seeking reprieve from a terminal sentence, orphan Alex decides to spend her last days in the wilderness. When she meets a kindly old man and his snotty granddaughter, Ellie, Alex is eager to be alone, but noone is prepared for an electromagnetic pulse that leaves the old man dead and Alex with a recovered sense of smell and the new ability to discern fear. There are also a whole mess of ravenous adolescent cannibals, paranoid adults, and a ticked-off eight-year-old A child psychiatrist, aspiring surgeon, and former Air Force major, Bick has the background necessary to craft her tale, as her heroine faces situations that make the Hunger Games look like a tea party. Deceptively simple at first, the story is infused with science and real-life elements that lend further credence as the action picks up steam. Bick proves adept at tugging at heartstrings while gearing up for the next dreadful thing waiting around the corner. Oh sure, there are a few love interests in the mix, but do not mistake Alex for the shrinking-violet paranormal wisps or kick-rump world saviors flooding the YA market. She is better: a real girl with brains and heart, just trying to survive in a world that is out to eat her alive.--Matthew Weaver 5Q 5P M J S A/YA Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.