Partridge and Pressia live in two different worlds. Partridge lives in a Dome, protected from the holocaust of bomb detonations outside. His body does not have any scars and is in perfect shape. Pressia lives in the real world where everyone has visible scars, burns and has things fused to them that they were near during the detonations. Pressia has a doll’s head fused to her hand and burns on her face. Partridge does something no one else has ever done. He escapes the Dome to search for his mother. He thinks of her as a saint who tried to help others and didn’t make it to the Dome on time. She might still be alive. He has to know for sure. But his escape comes a little to easily as he finds out why the hard way. He is being watched and why would they let him go? Pressia is hiding from the OSR, the troops that are organizing an uprising. When she turns 16 she will be forced to join them or become live target practice for new recruits. While running she meets Partridge in the street. She agrees to help him and takes him to a local underground leader named Bradwell. Bradwell has living birds fused into his back. The OSR wants her to be an officer, but she can’t understand why. Each of the characters in the ashen world have something, or an animal or someone fused to their bodies. Each are horrifying and imaginative. The characters are multidimensional and interesting. Partridge and Pressia have a connection that readers will not see coming. Julianna Baggott is a master world builder. She creates two dystopian worlds that are different but equally disturbing. The two things that freaked me out the most were the dusts. The people fused to the earth who prey upon the living by pulling them into the earth and feeding on them. But the most horrific were the mother soldiers who have their children fused to them. Both child and mother are alive, but the child cannot grow because the mother’s body cages them. The story is brilliant, fast paced and very well written. I highly recommend this for fans of dystopian teen lit.
Some ideas for discussing with teens:
Discuss El Captian and Helmund.
Did you think Partridge was meant to leave the Dome? Did someone set him up?
Discuss this passage, “The world, as awful as it is, seems like it’s better off with Bradwell in it.”
How are Bradwell and Partridge different or the same?
If you could have something fused to your body what would you want it to be?
Why do you think Partridges’s father left his mother behind?
Discuss this passage,”What ever was in the cage is gone now,” Bradwell says. “Maybe it’s better off,” Partridge says. “Let loose, freed.” “You think?” Bradwell says. Partridge isn’t so sure–to be in a cage or loose in this world. This is a questions he should be able to answer.
Discuss the part where Pressia thinks “at least she’d die in a warm coat.” What does that coat represent for you. What would you grateful to have like that?
What did you think the wife in the farmhouse meant when she told Pressia she would try and keep her from harm? Discuss Ingership’s desire to be civilized. Why would he eat that food knowing it would make him sick?
Talk about the dusts.
Would you rather live in the Dome or the real world?
What did you think of Partridge’s mother?
Discuss what happened with Sedge?