Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari

Posted on: August 12, 2013

Ashes, Ashes is another in what seems like an endless parade of young adult fiction centered on the end of the world. Don’t take that as criticism as it sure isn’t meant that way. Rather, the point is that survival fiction has become quite a hot genre in the young adult category.

Lucy is sixteen years old and is scratching out an existence living in what is left of Central Park, New York City. A series of smallpox epidemics coupled with natural disasters like earthquakes and floods have ripped apart the city she once knew. Millions have died, from coast to coast, leaving behind scraps that are fought over by the survivors. Lucy is old enough to remember what life used to be like, with Internet, pizza, and school. She is also smart enough to have been able to adapt when things went south. She has little in the way of gear, with her father’s knife and an old survival manual among her most prized possessions. The manual has taught her how to make fire, how to construct a shelter, and how to obtain food from the wild. It is a lonely existence but it beats the alternative.

After being set upon by a pack of wild dogs, she meets Aidan, a boy about her own age who saves her. He takes her to his camp, a small community of survivors who are working together to make a better life. They’ve set up meager gardens and even something of a village. There, Lucy learns about the Sweepers, groups of scientists who snatch survivors where they can find them, taking them to some sort of base and experimenting on them.

It isn’t long after Lucy’s arrival at the camp that another attack is made by these Sweepers, who manage to snatch a few of the young children. Soon after, they return and grab a few more of the survivors, including Del, a young woman who is smitten with Aidan and appears to hold a few secrets of her own.

Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that Lucy and Aidan go after the Sweepers and what they learn is earth shattering.

Overall, I liked Ashes, Ashes. Like many young adult books, there is a fair amount of romance here on top of the action and adventure. That’s to be expected nowadays. However, this book is also sort of all over the place. There’s action, drama, even some sci fi sprinkles scattered here and there. Not necessarily a bad thing, mind you, but it is almost as if the author couldn’t decide just what she wanted to do with the story.

I found the segments of the story detailing how the camp runs to be rather interesting. It was nice to see an author talk at least a bit about how group dynamics would work out in such an arrangement. There is very little in terms of concrete survival lore here but what there is added some nice detail to a few scenes.

If you liked the Hunger Games books, you’ll probably enjoy Ashes, Ashes. While it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger, the author did leave the door wide open for a follow up tale.

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