Ilsa Bick’s Ashes is a dystopian novel with a few zombies thrown in for zest. It starts with Alex, a terminally ill 17-year old, hiking near Lake Superior. Her destination: to spread her parents ashes along the lake. While hiking she meets an old man, Jim, and his disrespectful granddaughter, Ellie. Wary of her new companions, Alex tries to get rid of them, but runs out of luck. Suddenly, there is a pulse that sends them all to their knees, killing Jim. That’s when things start to change. People die, or worse- change into the flesh craving monsters called zombies.

Near the beginning Alex and Ellie run from two zombies and get stuck in a tree, they lives are saved by a soldier on leave, Tom. This appearance gives the story a love interest.

As the book goes on you can see the romance between Tom and Alex rise. However, the romance does not detract from the sci-fi elements of the story.

Throughout the story, the reader witnesses how the pulse transforms the nature of people as they turn to stealing and killing out of fear. Some don’t check to see if a person is a zombie before they kill.  The horror of cannibalism becomes a reality and suddenly it is an all out fight to stay alive and not get consumed.

It was a disappointment to me that throughout this novel, the origin of “the pulse” remains unexplained. However, because it is only the first book of a series, this element of mystery creates a gripping cliffhanger.

The detail in the book is frankly gross. It is so disturbing, that it can detract from the novel. You don’t need to know every little detail about how the crazed zombie people ate the raw deer. I wish more had happened in the woods; Alex was portrayed as a survival expert but you never really see it in the book. Also the fact that she had originally gone to Lake Superior to spread her parents ashes was not needed, her emotional attachment to the ashes was an unnecessary detail.The zombies in this story were awesome, though because they hadn’t died, they technically weren’t zombies.

In the beginning of the book Alex is hiking to civilization with Ellie and she sees two teenagers leaning over something and eating. As she gets closer she realizes they are eating their long deceased grandmother. She tries slowly walking away but Ellie screams and suddenly they are being chased. This is just one of the many gruesome scenes in the book. If this description alone makes you sick, then Ashes probably isn’t the book for you.

Ashes is one of my favorite books now, it kept me reading and was very interesting. Although it could get a little gross at times it was perfectly paced. I would recommend this book to anyone who can take a little gory description and likes to read dystopian novels.