An exciting read that imagines a world gone mad after an EMP destroys all the silicon circuitry based technology and kills a significant proportion of the population, Ashes had me hooked from the start. The EMP leaves only the very young and very old, some of whom develop super human senses – super smell, sight or hearing, and others who devolve into cannibals. The cannibals are technically not zombies, but Ashes reads like a zombie-apocalypse book, with thrilling hunting scenes and lessons in wilderness survival.Alex is one tough cookie: she was diagnosed with a brain tumour a few years after the death of her parents, and has been through many treatments, none of which seem to be working. Despairing, she decides to take her parents’ ashes to Lake Superior, and while on the hike up, the EMP hits. Suddenly saddled with 8 year old Ellie, whose grandfather died because of the pulse, Alex has to learn to survive in the wilderness, while being hunted by cannibalistic teenagers. I really like Alex, not only because of how tough she is, but because of her reactions to the mental and physical stresses of surviving in the new world. Tom, a companion Ellie and Alex during the story, balances Alex out really well and I enjoyed the interactions between both of them.Whilst many readers have expressed disappointment in how the story almost slows down once Alex finds santuary in a survivor’s city, I think her reaction makes sense. She has been fighting for years: against her tumour, her imminent death, and now against wild teenagers and other survivors of the EMP, who kill for what little resources remain. When she is finally able to take a breather and assess things, it’s not surprising that parts of her shut down and she takes solace in the safety of numbers. I think it would have been wrong for Alex go into the community of Rule guns ablaze, being forceful, because in reality she would just get locked up or turned out for disturbing the tenuous peace the community has established. I think this is the more realistic choice for her, and I relished the opportunity to read about a character who is quietly strong.Ashes ends with a doozy of a cliff hanger – if possible, I stongly suggest having the sequel - Shadows (out September 2012) – handy. An amazing start to a thrilling adventure set in a post apocalyptic world, I recommend Ashes to fans of YA fiction, especially those who enjoy dystopian and post apocalyptic stories.You can read more of my reviews at Speculating on SpecFic.