Awesome Readers’ Club – Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

arcashes

At my library, I run the Awesome Readers’ Club. ARC is our book club for teens in grades 6-12. They sign-up each month and receive a copy of the book we’re reading (which they get to keep forever). There are about 7 regulars that attend each month and a few that come on various occasions. Our meetings almost always go off-topic and turn into a discussion of cheese, Warrior Cats, and random school complaints. Not that this is necessarily bad because I like that the teens feel comfortable talking to me, but I would like for them to discuss our monthly book selection a little. Typically, I try to keep the discussion free-form and I think that is where the problem lies. To make it more structured, I am going to start writing actual discussion questions for each book which the teens will take turns drawing from a basket. To keep myself accountable for the discussion questions, I’m going to post them here.

This month’s book selection was Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. I had a rough time coming up with questions (next month is The Giver and I should have no problem there.) Here is the Goodreads description of Ashes:

“An electromagnetic pulse flashes across the sky, destroying every electronic device, wiping out every computerized system, and killing billions.

Alex hiked into the woods to say good-bye to her dead parents and her personal demons. Now desperate to find out what happened after the pulse crushes her to the ground, Alex meets up with Tom—a young soldier—and Ellie, a girl whose grandfather was killed by the EMP.

For this improvised family and the others who are spared, it’s now a question of who can be trusted and who is no longer human. “

*WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD*

I have mixed feelings about this book and think that affected my ability to come up with discussion questions. I didn’t really like the main characters, though I thought the story itself was interesting. Ellie and Alex both annoyed me to no end. I was also confused by Rule. How did a little society with a form of government and everything pop up so soon after the zap? It was only a few months. There must have been something weird going on in that village beforehand, it just doesn’t make sense. Some old guys are just like we’re in charge now and everyone is cool with that – no way is that happening. Also, there were too many cliffhangers. Anyway, here are the discussion questions I am going to use for Ashes:

  • Who do you think set off the ebomb that caused the zap?
  • Why do you think some kids and teens were spared but others weren’t?
  • Do you think it was wise for Alex, Tom, and Ellie to leave the cabin?
  • If you were alone in the woods after the zap, what would you want in your survival pack?
  • What do you think happened to Tom after Alex left to find help?
  • Do you think Ellie is still alive?
  • Which character is your favorite?
  • Which character is your least favorite?
  • If your friend or family member became Changed, do you think you would kill them – like Tom killed Jim? Or would you try to keep them alive, like Larry did with his daughter?
  • Do you think Alex should have stayed and tried to help Chris?
  • Who do you want Alex to end up with, Tom or Chris?
  • What changes do you think Jess wants to happen in Rule? Why do you think she believes Chris is the one who can make change happen?
  • If you could have Yeager’s sense of touch, Alex’s sense of smell, or Jess’ sense of hearing – which would you choose and why?
  • Do you believe that Rule is feeding the Changed? Why?
  • What was your favorite part of the book?
  • What was your least favorite part of the book?
  • Why do you think all the dogs love Alex?
  • Would you recommend this book to a friend?
  • Will you read the rest of the Ashes trilogy?

Feel free to use these questions for your own book club.

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