Ashes - Ilsa J. Bick 3.5 stars. This book had a fantastic beginning. I didn't even know what I was in for until I was almost a quarter way through the novel, and then it hit me that holy crap, this is a zombie book! Not only that, it's your classic tale of zombie apocalypse survival, complete with an annoying kid side character and getting lost in the woods. The book's synopsis only mildly hints at this when I read it, so I was pleasantly surprised to say the least.

I also had no idea that this book was classified YA until I actually came here and saw the user tags. I guess I should have clued in earlier on the many obvious hints; firstly, you have the EMP that "brain zaps" people and turn them into the "Changed", but with a twist -- its effects are age specific, sparing mostly the old but decimating the world's population of adolescents and young adults. Very cool premise and a unique take on the zombie origin theory, but this of course also leaves our protagonist Alexandra, a late teen herself who was one of the "Spared" plenty of reasons to get even more emo. Secondly, and most telling of all, about halfway through the book, the story suddenly transforms into "Zombie Apocalypse, 90210".

This was where I started to get disappointed. I was really enjoying myself up to this point, digging the story and the characters, even the aforementioned annoying kid side character Ellie, who started growing on me. But then all that disappears. All that time I spent getting to know Ellie and Tom, and then *poof!* they go away and I'm introduced to a whole new setting and a whole new group of players. Most frustrating of all, the story also takes a new direction, and we start to drift away from the zombie survival aspect to dwell on this new plot point, which my cynical side cannot help but feel it's there as an excuse to inject some romantic drama.

At the very end, the novel redeems itself somewhat, showing hints that the story will get back on track and with a promise that we'll actually get to see some zombie action again, thank god. Of course, this also meant it ended on a cliffhanger. Why is it that so many books seem to be doing that these days? It's a bit evil if you ask me. Fortunately, at least it doesn't appear I have long to wait for book 2.