A mysterious note leads one young teenage girl on a journey of discovery in the YA novel Ashes to Ashes by Valerie Thomas. Exploring the themes of social interactions amongst teens and the unpredictability of the future, this novel sets the stage for a YA series that asks the question: can we prevent the future? Check out the synopsis:
From tragedy came power. And from mishandled power came mystery.
After moving into a new gated community with her family, Natalie is ready to begin a peaceful year at Emerson High. A year complete with boy troubles, school dances, new friends… everything an average girl could expect.
Then she starts receiving notes warning her not to go to school November first. Notes in her day planner, on a piece of homework, on a homecoming ticket… The more notes she receives the more details she uncovers, and the clearer it becomes: words like peaceful and average are about the worst ones anyone could use to describe the year she’s about to have. Crazy? Maybe. Violent? Definitely. Heart-wrenching, mind-blowing, life-changing?
Well, that remains to be seen. All Natalie knows from the start is that she shouldn’t go to school on November first. And maybe you shouldn’t either.
Trigger Warning: As is the case with some books I read, I feel compelled to disclose that there are some story lines that might be triggering for some readers out there. Story lines involving suicide and a possible large scale tragedy are referenced in this book. Although I’m reluctant to get into specifics, I felt it pertinent to at least mention this before going further.
This book starts off with a lot of action right from the first page. Introducing us to Natalie, we already get a glimpse into the social hierarchy of high school, showing the dividing lines amongst the students and how kids view one another. Exploring the nerves that go into attending a new school, starting freshman year of high school and trying to make new friends, Natalie finds her life complicated even more when these mysterious notes teasing November 1st start arriving. Who’s behind the notes, and what are they trying to prevent?
The story itself was strong, indicating a large-scale series that can span three or four novels easily. Delving into a thriller/mystery realm, this YA drama focuses strongly on the bonds we make in our teenage years and the importance those relationships have on us in the long run. The characters were what really drew me into the story however. The complicated relationships Natalie has with those around her kept the mystery of the story in constant shadows, and her story often felt personal, as if anyone who’d ever been a struggling teen could identify with it.
Now I will say the novel took a little more time than maybe it needed to in order to get into a rhythm thematically, I will say the writing was overall precise and delivered a strong thriller. While it touched on the emotional aspects of Natalie’s various relationships with family, friends and others towards the end of the book, I’d love to dive more into the emotional side of Natalie’s tale in future stories.
Overall I liked this book a lot. With a huge cliffhanger that will leave readers wanting to learn more about Natalie’s story, this was a strong entry in a new YA Drama series that deserves to be explored. While I will reiterate there are some pretty strong story lines that should be handled with care in future installments and should be read with care by you readers out there, I do think this was a great book and I hope guys will check