Ashfall by Mike Mullin is an amazing debut novel and seems to have captured the hearts and minds of reviewers. Check the author’s website if you don’t believe me. After being glued to the pages and unable to stop reading, I will predict this is going to be very popular with young adult readers. Fans of Gone in particular will be demanding this is available on the day of the October release since the buzz is out there.
The only reason I hesitate on a whole-hearted middle school recommendation is the aspect of sexuality. Life changes and romance moves faster during a disaster. Alex and Darla meet during the afterfall of the disaster and fall in love while undergoing dramatic life-changing events. The good news, Susan, is they did use a condom. Realistically his family does react as if he is still a child instead of having rapidly grown-up through his ordeal.
Be sure to read Mike Mullin’s interview on the Our Time In Juvie blog. It offers insight into the author’s process of balancing entertainment with scientific research & presentation. My favorite part of the interview is:
In Ashfall, my fifteen-year-old protagonist is unaware of the imminent eruption at Yellowstone. I made this choice for three reasons: First, it heightens the drama of the story. Second, while it’s likely we’d get more warning than Alex did, it’s also plausible that Yellowstone could erupt unexpectedly. Volcanoes are notoriously difficult to predict, and we have no experience at all in predicting super-volcanic eruptions. Third, I believe that even if we were warned of an impending eruption at Yellowstone, we would fail to prepare adequately, or perhaps at all. The scale of the evacuation needed would overwhelm both our credulity and capacity to respond.
Wow! This author isn’t joking. I was only five pages into the story when this apocalyptic disaster erupted. I hadn’t even gotten to truly know the main character and developed a sense of his location when the disaster began. I felt as clueless as Alex when the first events began. Since this is written in the first person, we discover bits and pieces of the larger picture only as events allow access to outside information.
Having grown up in northwest Iowa, I was particularly tense following Alex’s journey through Central and Eastern Iowa on his way to reunite with his family in Illinois. I know those cities and those roads. The idea that a supervolcano exists beneath Yellowstone and could actually erupt with such devasting consequences was shocking to me.
Now, I’m reading other scientific titles on these supervolcanoes and I appreciate Mike Mullin’s list.
Reading in Ashfall about the government instituting a Federal Emergency Relief and Restoration of Order Act subjecting everyone to military rules of incarceration was shocking. How dare anyone just write off the state of Iowa and further west as the red zone and treat any survivors as prisoners?!
I relaxed when I realized in real-life that FEMA was very unlikely to be able to respond that quickly and that the government wouldn’t be organized enough to detain survivors. But, then, I started worrying again that the government could respond as ineptly as they did during Hurricane Katrina. Good thing the odds of this supervolcano erupting are not that high for now.
Be sure to visit Mike Mullin’s website to see how you can obtain advanced reading copies of Ashfall. Then you can join the long list of avid fans who are waiting for the official release so we can visit the website and read some of the sequel. This will eventually be a trilogy and all I can say is “MIKE MULLIN, get busy writing because I need to read all three books ASAP!”