A Book I Wish I’d Written

One  Saturday morning some weeks ago, I sat down with a new young adult novel I’d been hearing a lot about. I knew nothing about Ashes, by Ilsa Bick, except the title and the fact that it was due back at the library the following week.

Several hours later, having totally forgotten about lunch and other real-life concerns, I finished the last page of the last chapter.

I don’t want to lay down a spoiler, so I’ll just say that the plot involves an electromagnetic event that disrupts everyday life in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and maybe everywhere else. The book’s main character, Alex (short for Alexandra), is one of the few survivors who are not negatively affected.

Because I was totally immersed for so many hours in the world the author had created, it came as an almost physical shock when the last chapter did not end well for Alex. It hit me like all of Robert Cormier’s dark endings rolled into one, plus the final scene of The Mist (TV version).

If I’d had time to grab a snack, I might have been able to process what I had just read, but it was 4:30. I had to get moving because I was lectoring at the 5 o’clock Mass. (To “lector” is Catholic-speak for reading one of the Scripture passages that precede the Gospel.)

The transition from the UP wilderness to the first-century Mediterranean did not go well. Paul is not an easy read-aloud in the best of circumstances–ever try to diagram one of his sentences?–but he is a major, MAJOR challenge when you’re woozy.

A couple of hours later, after the spell of Ashes had begun to dissipate and a good supper had reactivated the thinking parts of my brain, I realized that several major plot threads were still dangling and that this probably was a Big Honking Clue that the end of the book was not the end of the story. I went online and confirmed that there was indeed a sequel in the works. It’s called Shadows, it’s coming out later this year, and I can hardly wait to see if my theory about the final scene is correct.

I was so grateful for the intense experience of Ashes that the very next week I went over to Boswell Books and bought a copy, in hardcover, for my very own Shelf of Inspiration.

Yes, I paid retail.

It was that good.

© 2012 Anne Bingham and Making It Up as I Go