The main character is a teenager who lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Alex’s family wants him to come along on a visit to family in Illinois; an argument ensues and he convinces his parents to let him stay behind alone for the weekend. When the volcano erupts his house is crushed by flying debris and he is trapped. He manages to free himself and make his way to his neighbors’ home. Eventually, he decides to strike out alone, travelling over the ash on his father’s old skis, to find his family in Illinois. He finds a traveling companion, a teenaged girl named Darla, and Ashfall tells the story of their journey together.
The science of the eruption seems plausible, but the timeline struck me as extremely condensed. I can believe rifle-toting farmers refusing to let other refugees on to their property, but some of the other conditions seem unlikely in the early days after a disaster. The dissolving of American society into anarchy is not hard to imagine, but it all seems to happen too quickly. Still, this book is a quick read with a lot of action, and it will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games, Divergent, Delirium, and other dystopian series.