Series: Ashes #1
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on December 23rd 2013
Genres: Paranormal Romance, Young Adult
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f I Stay meets the movie Ghost in this first book in a teen duology about a teenage-girl-turned-ghost who must cling to the echoes of her former life to save the people she left behind.
Ashes to Ashes is author Melissa Walker's sweeping, romantic, and emotionally rich story about the things that torment and tempt us, even from the Great Beyond. This book is perfect for fans of Die for Me and Imaginary Girls, and its breathtaking ending will leave readers anxiously awaiting the series conclusion, Dust to Dust.
When Callie's life is cut short by a tragic accident, she expects to find nothingness, or maybe some version of heaven.
Instead, her spirit travels to the Prism, an ethereal plane populated by the ghosts she thought were fictional. Here she meets a striking and mysterious ghost named Thatcher, who is meant to guide her as she learns to haunt and bring peace to the loved ones she left behind.
However, Callie uncovers a dark secret about the spirit world: The angry souls who always populate ghost stories are real, dangerous, and willing to do whatever it takes to stay on Earth, threatening the existence of everyone she ever cared about.
As she fights to save them, Callie will learn that while it may no longer beat, her heart can still love-and break.
I can pretty much bucket all of my problems with this book into two main categories: Melissa Walker’s version of the afterlife (which I realize is entirely personal) and the way the plot unfolds. This ended up being a little more rant-y than I initially intended, so I’ve included a healthy dose of Dean and his wonderful facial expressions to make it a more pleasurable experience
Issue 1: The Afterlife
In Ashes to Ashes, the afterlife is full of ghosts hovering around their unknowing loved ones as their presence heals the living, helping them to move on and therefore allowing the ghosts to basically level up to the next plain of consciousness where they will supposedly find peace and oneness with the universe. While I can get behind leveling up to peace and oneness, the hanging around watching the people you love be sad sounds incredibly depressing to me. We’re told it’s okay because normal ghosts (of course, Callie is special) are kind of like the Dolls in the show Dollhouse. They’re happy and blank, going about their business all placid-like. Blech. Zombie ghosts. While normally that word combination would make me go AWESOME, in this case, no thank you.
It gets worse though. You can’t spend all your time haunting as being on the same plain of the living zaps a ghost’s energy and you have to go back to Prism (i.e. purgatory) to recharge. No big deal, right? You can kick back, chill with your ghost buddies or maybe read a book or something while you charge your batteries, right? WRONG. While in Prism, ghosts go to their personal spaces, are not supposed to invite anyone else in (something about stealing energy? I didn’t really care I was too busy dealing with my mounting horror) and meditate. MEDITATE.
No books, no music, no TV, no entertainment of any kind, NO INTERNET. I don’t know about you, but I am not a restful person. I find meditation incredibly annoying and quite frankly, this sounds more like hell to me.
Issue 2: The Plot
The entire plot more or less unfolds something like this:
Callie: I want to do the thing
Thatcher: You can’t do the thing
Callie: Why can’t I do the thing?
Callie: Oh, okay, I guess I won’t do the thing then.
Morally ambiguous bad guys: Hey Callie, come do the thing with us.
Callie: *does the thing*
Even more infuriatingly, Thatcher will then get mad at Callie when she doesn’t do what he tells her to. Yes Thatcher, you said she shouldn’t do things, but you NEVER SAID WHY so stop it with the yelling. She’s just supposed to do everything because you say so? Is she your three year old? Is your word law? Who are you again?
In addition to this frustrating exchange that happens over and over, there are supposed to be mysterious shadowy goings on happening that aren’t explained until the very end of the book. While this makes for twist that I didn’t see coming (points awarded for that) up until everything comes clear, I was left with undefined stakes that did nothing to build tension.
Because of the stakelessness of it all, the villains read more like bullies in an after school special, I could picture them dressed in tough-kid clothes (leather, maybe? what are the bad kids wearing these days?) and luring Callie behind the gym with promises of good times and cigarettes, peer-pressuring her by calling her chicken when she doesn’t fall in with what they want her to do (which she does, because in a previous life, Callie was Marty McFly). This ends up making Thatcher more of a strict parental-figure, (“Now Callie, I don’t want you running with that bad crowd.” “But Daaaad I like the way they make me feeeeeeel.”) giving their relationship and extra level of creepy and weird!
Okay, I lied. There were actually three issues. As you may have already picked up on, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the romance. While most of my problems with Thatcher can be bundled into issue number two and his unwillingness to explain anything, ever, I may have pulled some hair out over Callie’s reaction to Thatcher.
Is it because he’s my all-knowing, all-powerful guide? No, it’s deeper than that. It’s this connection, this loneliness in his soul that I want to befriend, this ache in mine that he soothes. It’s this satisfaction that I feel when I calm the storm in his eyes. It’s the strength in him tempered with compassion.
To clarify, at this point they’ve known each other for all of two to three days in which Thatcher’s mostly been a silent, obnoxiously stoic and vaguely disproving kill joy of a presence. They’ve had a single two-sided conversation in which he told her about his sister (spoiler alert, his sister was sad when he died, the end).
And then, to make matters worse, she’s all strung out over liking him when she still loves Nick, her living boyfriend who officially became ex WHEN SHE DIED. Girl, prioritize. You are freshly dead and stuck in the worst afterlife ever, you’re acting like you’re Elena and this is some kind of dramatic-ass TVD love triangle when it is so emphatically not and, more importantly, YOU HAVE BIGGER ISSUES.
To summarize, what? why? Ashes to Ashes reeks of invented drama and insta-love and I am simply past the point in my life and book preferences where I have any patience for that kind of thing.
While I will give Walker credit for the end, I did not see the final twist coming, up until that point I felt zero emotional connection, no feels, no anxiety. Honestly? I was often bored. It wasn’t all bad, there were plenty of things to like (Callie’s best friend Carson jumps to mind and the writing was decent when it wasn’t trying to convince me to ship Callie/Thatcher) but overall, it wasn’t enough to engage me and get me past all of the things that bothered me.