Ashfall, by Mike Mullin
Alex Halprin, 15, is alone for the weekend in Cedar Falls, Iowa, while his parents and sister are visiting his uncle’s farm in Illinois. Suddenly, his world changes when a huge rock falls through the roof. Taking refuge with his neighbors, Alex learns that Yellowstone’s supervolcano is erupting, 900 miles away, showering them with ash, and days of sonic booms and darkness. Alex finds skis and travels east to find his family, scrounging for food and water along the way. Darla Edmunds and her mother take him in when Alex collapses after a fight. Darla has rigged up a bicycle to grind corn, so their farm is self-sufficient.
Later Darla and Alex search for a way across the Mississippi River while conditions (ash, snow, and anarchy) worsen. There is plenty of violence, so this gritty post-apocalyptic read is not for everyone. Alex and Darla are convincingly flawed, and we root for them as they fall in love and struggle to survive. For more about the author and a sequel, Ashen Winter, visit his website. This would be a good readalike for Life As We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer. For more dystopian or post-apocalyptic books like Ashfall, check out Denise’s book display of readalikes for The Hunger Games. Another readalike is Shipbreaker, reviewed earlier.