Under the bubbling hot springs and geysers of Yellowstone National Park is a supervolcano. Most people don't know it's there. The caldera is so large that it can only be seen from a plane or satellite. It just could be overdue for an eruption, which would change the landscape and climate of our planet.
Ashfall is the story of Alex, a teenage boy left alone for the weekend while his parents visit relatives. When the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts unexpectedly, Alex is determined to reach his parents. He must travel over a hundred miles in a landscape transformed by a foot of ash and the destruction of every modern convenience that he has ever known, and through a new world in which disaster has brought out both the best and worst in people desperate for food, water, and warmth. With a combination of nonstop action, a little romance, and very real science, this is a story that is difficult to stop reading and even more difficult to forget.
I was really looking forward to reading this book. I love books, movies, tv shows, video games, etc. that are in post-apocalyptic settings. Ashfall exceeded my expectations even though I had set them pretty high. This book feels so real that I kept forgetting it wasn't actually a first-hand account of actual events.
It's written from the view-point of a teenage boy named Alex and starts off with him giving us a small glimpse into what his life is like 'pre-eruption', as it is called in the book. I was hooked from the very first paragraph. For the most part, we get to know Alex as he adapts and survives in a world that is strange and dangerous. His family was out of town when the eruption happened, and he makes a promise to himself that he will find them. The eruption forces the remaining population into a survival situation. The results are what you could actually expect when there is no law and nobody to keep the peace. Alex sees and experiences some horrible things.
It is no small feat for him to travel hundreds of miles on foot across a now-dangerous landscape. Just reading about how physically exhausting the actual walking (and skiing) across the deep ash and snow made me feel Alex's pain. Eventually he happens upon a girl, Darla, and her mother. Alex is on the verge of death when he stumbles into their barn. His relationship with Darla grows and thrives even in the cold, harsh world they have found themselves in. They end up saving each other, not just from physical harm but from the mental devastation of living through something so life-changing.
I literally could not put this book down, and was sad to come to the last page. Luckily, there is another book coming out in Fall 2012, Ashen Winter. I can't wait to immerse myself back into the world that Mike Mullin has created.
Publication Date: October 14, 2011
Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic
Source: Thank you to Netgalley.com and Tanglewood Press.