Reviews for Ashfall

Booklist Reviews 2011 October #1
Alex, 15, is alone at home in Cedar Falls, Iowa, when his house collapses, as thick black ash falls from the sky. A supervolcano in Yellowstone National Park has erupted 900 miles away, all power is out, and the horrendous noise of the aftermath does not stop. Alex takes off through the never-ending darkness, stench, corpses, and tumult to try to find his family who had been vacationing. Along the way, he meets smart, tough Darla, an engineering whiz, and together they fight through the post-eruption world. The step-by-step survival journey may be too graphic for some, especially the detailed descriptions of filth, hunger, and injuries as the teens scavenge for food, water, and shelter; run from a brutal FEMA refugee camp; fight off looters; and witness unspeakable violence (a woman tells them she saw her husband roasted on a spit). This catastrophic vision is rooted in realism that is extended by a concludingnote about the story's scientific connections, and Alex's voice is right on, especially in his romance with fierce, angry Darla. Of course, a sequel is coming. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2012 Spring
The end of the world comes when a giant rock is thrown 900 miles from the exploding supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park. Mullin's debut novel is carefully researched and vividly realized, a post-apocalyptic backdrop for a suspenseful tale with adventure, graphic violence, and two teenagers learning to love. For readers who like intense action, a believable narrator, and an imaginable dystopia.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #1
Alex Halprin's world ends one Friday evening, and there is no dawn the next day. The end of the world comes with a bang, a giant rock thrown 900 miles from the exploding supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park, destroying Alex's house and signaling the coming volcanic winter. After the rock comes the fire, then the noise, like Zeus "machine-gunning thunder at you," then a high-pitched whine, power outages, and ash, burying Alex's world. Rains turn the ash to muck, over which Alex skis in search of his parents who had taken a weekend trip over a hundred miles away. Alex walks out into a world that has quickly gone bad, populated by refugees, killers, rapists, and even cannibals, a world where Alex's tae kwon do skills come in handy more than once. But there's human kindness, too, and love, as Alex finds Darla and the two save each other's lives time and again. Mullin's debut novel is carefully researched and vividly imagined, a post-apocalyptic backdrop for an intense tale with adventure, graphic violence, and two young teenagers learning to love. A sure hit for older readers who like intense action, a believable narrator, and a dystopia that could actually happen. dean schneider

Kirkus Reviews 2011 September #1

"The pre-Friday world of school, cell phones, and refrigerators dissolved into this post-Friday world of ash, darkness, and hunger."

Left home alone for a weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while his family visits relatives in Warren, Ill., 15-year-old Alex Halprin ends up fighting for survival trying to get to them through an America ravaged by the sudden eruption of the supervolcano under Yellowstone Park. Alex is characterized by the decisions he makes when confronted with moral dilemmas—dilemmas that have no straightforward, correct answers—resulting in a realistically thoughtful protagonist dealing with complex and horrifying situations. Before he's even left his hometown, Alex encounters looting and other behaviors born from realization of just how finite resources are in emergencies. Traveling to Warren, he's even more vulnerable, both to the elements and to the mercies of the people he encounters. Among the best people that Alex encounters are a girl named Darla and her mother, Mrs. Edmunds, both self-sufficient farmers. But any relief is temporary—threats both environmental and human are ever present. While the pain and suffering Alex witnesses and experiences is visceral, so are the moments of hope and glimpses of human goodness.

In this chilling debut, Mullin seamlessly weaves meticulous details about science, geography, agriculture and slaughter into his prose, creating a fully immersive and internally consistent world scarily close to reality. (author's note) (Speculative fiction. 14 & up)


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

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 September #2

In this grim, postapocalyptic tale, the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, covering much of North America in volcanic ash and plunging the world into nuclear winter. Fifteen-year-old Alex Halprin refused a family trip to visit relatives in Illinois, so he's home alone in Iowa when the eruption occurs. After seeing a neighbor kill three looters, Alex heads east through falling ash, dropping temperatures, and torrential storms, hoping to find his family. Soon he's joined by another survivor, Darla Edmunds, with whom he falls in love. Debut novelist Mullin puts his characters through hell, depicting numerous deaths in detail ("Blam-Blam! His head pretty much burst, showering my legs with blood and bits of hair and skull and brain"). There's also cannibalism and a rape before the novel comes to a believable ending; "happy" is perhaps too much to ask for, but Alex does find a measure of stability. The book is well written and its protagonists are well-drawn, particularly the nontraditional and mechanically inclined Darla. Although more appropriate for older teens due to its violence, this is a riveting tale of survival. Ages 14-up. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2011 PWxyz LLC

School Library Journal Reviews 2011 November

Gr 8 Up--Alex, 15, is separated from his family when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts. The eruption leaves his world in confusion, with no infrastructure and drifts of ash everywhere. He decides that he must leave his home in Iowa to seek out his family, who were traveling toward Pennsylvania when the explosion occurred. Alex uses his Tae kwon do skills to keep himself safe as he skis over the ash. Food is in short supply for everyone. Eventually he is taken in by Mrs. Edmunds and her daughter, Darla. When tragedy strikes, Alex and Darla must set out on their own to find safety and food. Not surprisingly, along the way, a romantic attraction develops between them. Ultimately, they must figure out how to survive in a refugee camp. The conclusion is satisfying, but unresolved enough to indicate the beginning of what appears to be a planned trilogy. The tough self-sufficiency of the two lead characters (Alex's Tae kwon do coupled with Darla's automotive prowess) adds to their appeal. The romance develops believably over the course of the book. Tautly paced and well researched, this is a high-action read-alike for fans of Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It (Harcourt, 2006).--Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH

[Page 133]. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

VOYA Reviews 2011 December
High school student Alex Halprin's world changes instantly. When a supervolcano erupts in Yellowstone, he finds himself alone in his Iowa hometown struggling to survive. This new world finds him searching for the things he has always taken for granted: water, food, and shelter. With his parents away visiting relatives and his home destroyed by debris from the volcano, Alex decides to search for his parents. But this new world is covered in ash from the volcano and inhabited by other citizens figuring out how to live in this posteruption world. Alex encounters many people on his long and slow journey through the ash and snow--some people have banded together and formed functioning societies, while others have taken to looting and violence to survive. Along the way Alex gains a travel companion, a resourceful girl named Darla, whose mother was murdered while Alex was staying with her family. The two's search for his family includes a brief stay in a FEMA prison camp, encounters with other survivors, and ultimately leads them to his uncle's house, where the search ends in disappointment Ashfall takes the eruption of a supervolcano and creates an often bleak dystopian future where civil liberties have been suspended and where FEMA runs camps to contain the victims of the natural disaster. The character's journey to find his parents encompasses much of the first half of the novel. Although the novel is peppered with adventure and action, the first half seems exceeding long, and the descriptions of the ash world and Alex's journey on skis through this ash seem slightly repetitive. Mullin's description of the FEMA camp and how families and smaller societies band together to survive are more engaging than Alex's journey. Alex is a dynamic character and certainly changes throughout the novel, and teens will appreciate this and the romance between the two central figures. Readers who are fascinated by natural disaster stories and dystopian fiction will enjoy this one. A sequel is scheduled for next year.--Jeff Mann 3P 3Q J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.