Mike Mullin blew into the young adult literature scene with "Ashfall," his debut novel about life after a Yellowstone supervolcano blows up and destroys life as we know it. With the end of the trilogy, "Sunrise," Mullin manages to continue the excitement and the tension while bringing the whole story to a wonderful conclusion.
Over the course of the three novels, Alex, the narrator, grows in maturity much more than the several years that pass in the books. He is fifteen when the supervolcano erupts, but he ends up eighteen and very much a man, respected by his community, at the end of the last book.
What is amazing is that Mullin is able to take three novels where the main idea is survival after the explosion of a supervolcano, and manages to keep the topic fresh and interesting. The situations in which the main characters find themselves are constantly changing, and the characters themselves are in flux, with ever-changing relationships. One thing that remains steady throughout the three books, however, is Alex's relationship with his girlfriend Darla.
Mullin dares to make Darla stronger than Alex. Not in all ways, of course, but she is stronger and quicker and able to repair and build almost anything. Alex is ignorant of the ways of machines, but his brilliance comes when dealing with people.
Alex quickly becomes a leader, and when older, less able "adults" think of taking over, Alex is able to use his brains to keep the peace. He is intelligent enough to rely on the sage advice of others, including Ben, an autistic member of the community who is fascinated with military strategy.
The trilogy is at times frightening (there really is a supervolcano under Yellowstone), violent (Mullin pulls no punches when detailing how evil and depraved some humans can be in times of great need), and hopeful (Alex and his group are unfailing in their desire to help others and keep others safe -- often at great risk).
The trilogy would be a great recommendation for reluctant readers or those who enjoy stories with action and great characters. English teachers will love the character development that occurs over the course of the trilogy (and individual novels).
Please note: This review is based on the advance review copy provided by Tanglewood Press for review purposes.
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