Over-detailed storytelling fatigue and Ashes Ashes by Jo Treggiari

I finished this last night, and my first thought after turning the last page was “At least it’s not a trilogy.”

No spoilers – just a rant.

Ashes Ashes is another YA dystopia featuring yet another spunky teenaged Katniss wannabe. Lucy has been surviving on her own and living off the land, but that’s about all they have in common. Unfortunately she isn’t compelling enough to make me ignore how bits of plot and ideas emerge and disappear like mad – Lucy’s younger brother used to call her Lucky, because she was clumsy! Her older sister was Maggot! She measures water tides using an Alice in Wonderland statue! The story was overwhelmed by the wasted potential in these little snippets of information. When something is introduced, I assume it means something. Hence, Lucy being unnaturally clumsy (or Lucy being unusually lucky in some situation) would be a logical follow-through after introducing the nickname. Doesn’t happen. How about some details about her sister dying other than a quick mention about burning her favourite blanket, like maybe a nightmare about her rotting with maggots? Nope. Maybe a Wonderland reference or a through-the-rabbit-hole moment of reflection on the changes in her world? Nothing. What’s the point of even mentioning the Alice statue if you’re not going to use the one of the greatest fantasies ever to better illuminate your story or character?

I know that I have particular issues with this sort of storytelling. I don’t like texts filled out with extraneous details that don’t mean anything. But I can’t believe that this doesn’t bother anyone else.

It’s not all bad, of course. If you like fast-paced, suspenseful reads and don’t mind coincidence, comically dense character responses, and lots of unanswered questions, Ashes Ashes is a perfectly serviceable quick jaunt through another dystopian landscape. Professional reviewers were much kinder than I am, especially Publishers Weekly, who called it “lovingly detailed” (!!), so don’t let me completely turn you off. Just don’t start thinking too hard about why on earth it’s called Ashes Ashes.**

**seriously, thoughwhy Ashes Ashes? There’s no big fires, no ashfall… Water is actually far more significant to the book.

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