This book review is by Max B. All summer, we had teens submit book, music, and movie reviews for a Left Brain challenge. Max's was chosen as the best submission all summer, and in addition to winning a tablet, we're posting his awesome review here. He's got a great book to recommend!
Ashfall, an apocalypse novel by Mike Mullin, surpassed all of my expectations, yet fell short of being a truly great read.
Alex Halprin is an introvert living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Alex’s family goes to visit his uncle in Warren, Illinois, leaving Alex behind. Everything is going fine until a super volcano underneath Yellowstone National Park erupts.
Alex leaves Cedar Falls to find his family, and along the way he meets Target, an ex-convict that is taking advantage of a lawless land. He also meets the Edmunds family, most notably Darla, who soon bonds greatly with Alex. Alex and Darla set off together to find Alex's family and chaos ensues.
There are two broad ways to describe the book: Ashfall the apocalypse novel and Ashfall the stand-alone novel. Mullin did an amazing job writing Ashfall as an apocalypse novel. The words are well thought out, the tone is consistent, and though the overall plot is good (if a tad cliché,) it’s the plot arcs themselves that are unique and well done.
On the other hand, Mullin didn't do nearly as good of a job writing Ashfall as a stand-alone novel. It is poorly written, and most of the dialogue follows the same pattern with excessive amounts of arguing and thanking. The relationship between Alex and Darla turned from a promising friendship with hints of a relationship in the future into a sappy, poorly written and unnecessary romantic subplot.
Although Mullin didn't spend too much time on the romance, the time he did spend on it simply wasn't well done. It wasn’t so much the romance that bothered me, but rather the deviation and lack of consistency. The novel was presented as an apocalypse story, but with how often it deviates from that format it stops being so.
Most parts of Ashfall are unique, interesting and most of all genuine. When apocalypse stories are made, there is a factor of irrationality that turns it into a joke. However the threat within Ashfall is realistic and could be viewed as a valid concern.
As far as apocalypse novels go, Ashfall is one of the best; as far as novels in general go, it falls as hard as the ash within the novel.