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

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9 Responses to A Book I Wish I’d Written

  1. Terri says:

    Thanks, Anne. I’ll add this title to my book club list!


  2. Mirka Breen says:

    .I know what you mean by ‘I paid retail.” When I finish certain ‘wish I had written’ books that are borrowed, and HAVE to have my own HARD COPY, (or even Library edition, so it will outlast me) then you know it’s that good. Happens about three times a year, on a good year.


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Thanks, Mirka. I’m glad there’s somebody else out there who understands what I mean when I say I can’t afford to buy a book unless I’ve already read it! And yes, I’ve ordered library-bound editions in the past! Plus the first hard copy cover is usually the gorgeous one, as we’ve learned from the cover tale re Silver Phoenix.


  3. Anne M Leone says:

    Those are the best books, when you finish and need at least a few hours to process the experience. Too bad you had to run to church instead!

    I keep hearing good things about Ashes. It really doesn’t sound like my type of book, but maybe I should give it a try. Thanks for the recommendation!


    • Anne Bingham says:

      I would have thought that a few years ago, and some post-apocalyptic books are real slogs, but I’m glad I kept reading beyond my comfort level because otherwise I’d never have found this one…or the next one I’m going to write about from yet another genre.


  4. Anne,
    Thanks for this lovely review. I’m so pleased you went beyond your comfort level. For the record, I ADORED the way the movie version of THE MIST ended. Although I love King, I do believe that this is one time when the movie version a much more visceral experience.


    • Anne Bingham says:

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Ilsa! I’m looking forward to the sequel, and plan to read some of your other books in the meantime…but only after packing a lunch, and only if I don’t have someplace else to go that day!


  5. Sheila Kelly Welch says:


    The Internet is amazing! When we were kids, we would have loved getting a note from the author of a book we couldn’t put down. Anyhow, I am sold and will read Ashes just as soon as I finish a middle grade book that I am reading slowly and feeling glad I did not write.


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