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After the Ashes

Review

After the Ashes

The year is 1883, and 13-year-old Katrien Courtland doesn’t have time for her aunt’s lessons on how to be a lady and run a household. She wants to spend her life exploring the magnificent jungle around her village on the island of Java, sharing her discoveries with her best friend, Slamet, a native boy. Katrien delights in finding new flora and fauna, as well as wild animals. Her particular passion is proving Darwin’s theory of natural selection.

She similarly doesn’t have time to socialize with other girls on the island, particularly with stuck-up Brigitta Burkhart, her used-to-be-best friend. The two are growing up --- in totally opposite directions. But Katrien can’t help running into Brigitta in different places around the island. Each time Brigitta manages to push Katrien’s buttons, and Katrien usually ends up getting in trouble and being humiliated.

The author does a great job creating a story that shows what girls might have done in the face of such an incredible disaster.

Imagine the girls’ dismay when they are left together to fight for their lives. The thought-to-be extinct volcano, Krakatau, suddenly erupts, sending plumes of deadly smoke and ash across the town, covering everything in a thick blanket of dust. Then a tsunami comes roaring into the village. Katrien and Brigitta each manage to escape to the jungle, where they find then themselves together without food, water or anyone else to help them. Will they survive this terrible disaster?

Author Sara K. Joiner writes a gripping coming-of-age story with AFTER THE ASHES, one that forces Katrien to face some unpleasant truths about what she thought was a perfect life on the island, and one that pits young girls together against the mighty forces of nature.

Throughout the narrative, Katrien recites passages from Darwin’s book, ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. The reader is left with a sense of what Darwin wrote and how Katrien was relating her life to Darwin’s words.

Before I read this book, I was familiar with the island of Java, but I had never heard of Krakatau. This story is based on the volcano’s historic eruption and the disaster that followed. Katrien and Briggitta are fictional characters, but the author does a great job creating a story that shows what girls might have done in the face of such an incredible disaster. This is a good read for historical fiction fans, Darwin enthusiasts and those who simply enjoy a good story.

Reviewed by Christine Irvin on October 16, 2015

After the Ashes
by Sara K. Joiner

  • Publication Date: August 1, 2015
  • Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House
  • ISBN-10: 0823434419
  • ISBN-13: 9780823434411