Ilsa J. Bick went and blew my mind again.
And all of her characters’ minds too.
ASHES is the story of Alex, an orphaned teen who has her own date with death as the tumor in her brain continues to grow. A last ditch medical approach has Alex seeking solitude and a place to spread her parent’s ashes in the woods of Waucamaw, Michigan. When an electro-magnetic pulse kills most of the world’s population she finds herself caring for Ellie, a young girl whose grandfather dropped dead while they were camping.
And it seems her tumor is gone.
Alex strength has returned, her health is as good as it’s ever been. Maybe even better. She can smell feelings emanating from people in waves; fear mostly, but sometimes the faint glimmer of hope. And more importantly, she can smell the Changed.
The particular brain chemistry of teens allowed them to live through the EMP, but they are shadows of people. Aggressive and hungry for human flesh, teens are feared and shot on sight. Ironically, Alex’s tumor saved her from that fate. Tom, a young veteran of the Iraq war was likewise spared because of PTSD. Together, they protect Ellie and head north, hoping to find shelter in an area with low population – of both the Changed and the living, who would kill them because of the pervasive fear of the young.
But not all of the aged living want teens dead. Some realize that the future of the human race lies with them, and healthy teens – especially girls – are as valuable as gold.