Published: September 26th 2013 by Pan Macmillan AU
Format: Paperback, 608 pages
Genres: Post Apocalyptic
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The Changed are on the move. The Spared are out of time. The End...is now.
When her parents died, Alex thought things couldn't get much worse-until the doctors found the monster in her head.
She headed into the wilderness as a good-bye, to leave everything behind. But then the end of the world happened, and Alex took the first step down a treacherous road of betrayal and terror and death.
Now, with no hope of rescue-on the brink of starvation in a winter that just won't quit - she discovers a new and horrifying truth.
The Change isn't over.
The Changed are still evolving.
And...they've had help.
I feel really bad about this. It takes a lot for me to give up on a book, and I feel horrible that it’s happened with Monsters when I loved the first two books of the series.
What it’s about
Monsters is set in a world where a mysterious event called The Zap has killed a majority of the adult population, leaving only the very young and the very old. It also destroys power and communications infrastructure, and has resulted in the release of nuclear waste into the atmosphere. The moon is green.
Along with the usual struggles of trying to live in this crippled world, the survivors have to contend with the Changed: teenagers who have degenerated into something little more than vicious beasts who enjoy the taste of human flesh. There are a few who have been left unchanged: the Spared, but they are treated with suspicion because they can Change at any moment.
Our protagonist, Alex, has a brain tumour, and on the day of The Zap she was hiking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and contemplating ending her life with her father’s Glock. The Zap has left teens like Alex with super-human abilities, and Alex ends up with a super sense of smell that allows her to intuit the emotions of those around her, and more importantly, to smell when the Changed are near. She’s rescued Ellie, an eight-year-old kid whose very valuable in this world without many kids, and they have taken up with Tom, a young soldier and explosive ordinance specialist on leave from Afghanistan.
What I liked about Ashes and Shadows
I really liked the protagonist, Alex, and Tom. I thought they made an excellent team and their struggle to survive in this harrowing new world and keep Ellie safe was very interesting.
They end up in a small community called Rule, where the elderly people have taken charge alongside some of the Spared, and everyone is on the look-out for the Changed, suspicious of any and all teens. There are lots of rules to abide by, but it offers Alex and the gang safety and shelter.
Shadows introduced a bunch of new characters to the story, and I really liked it because it allowed us to see how other communities and people were going.
I think I enjoyed Ashes and Shadows so much because I read them back-to-back, so there was no question of me forgetting who the characters were or why they were important.
What I didn’t like about Monsters
I’ve really struggled with Monsters. I’ve picked it up two years after Shadows, and it’s really hard to figure out what’s going on. It took me more than a week to read the first 100 pages, and I put it down after those 100 pages to think about it. I fully intended to get back to the story, but now, a week later, I’m realising I just don’t want to.
All I really remember are Alex and Ellie and Tom, and the other characters are confusing me. The parts I’ve read were exciting – Alex is stuck in a mine, Chris (a character I’d totally forgotten) is dying in a tiger trap, Ellie has been kidnapped by strangers. There are a few other characters I met, but I’ve already forgotten them and I couldn’t really tell what was going on with them.
So basically – I was confused.
Bick has been pretty unforgiving in this story – jumping straight into the action without taking the time to remind readers of anything. Like Shadows, Monsters picks up seconds after the end of the earlier book, but it does a very poor job of re-orienting readers into the world. I thought that the character guide and the refresher of where everyone was at the end of Shadows would help me with Monsters, and I think they are the only reason I even made it to page 100, but they weren’t enough in the end.
I feel horrible because this is a brilliant series that examines a lot of issues that YA usually shies away from, and I have looked forward to it. I don’t have the time to re-read Ashes and Shadows and I’m not enjoying Monsters, so I’ll be leaving Alex and the gang at page 100.
I still don’t hesitate to recommend this series to readers who enjoy thought-provoking post-apocalyptic stories, but now strongly urge them to have all three books ready and to read them back-to-back.