This is a true, "liked it" 3-star rating, not a "meh."
This is the story of Alex, a 15-year-old kid in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He's pretty typical: gives his parents a hard time, plays World of Warcraft, and has done taekwando for years. He's just seen his parents and sister off on their way to his uncle's farm when BLAM, the entire world comes to a screeching halt. The Yellowstone supervolcano has blown, and life will never be the same.
You know, I've also read Harry Turtledove's Supervolcano: Eruption
, and I have to say, I like this one better. Alex is a more likeable, relatable character, and the story has a notable lack of Velveeta. Well done.
--Alex is not perfect. He's scared spitless, takes risks, wings it, and lives with the consequences. And there ARE consequences.
--I really appreciated the descriptions of the physical effects of the ash and snow. He gets the details right on the biological stuff, and that earns trust in my book.
--Nice twist on the governmental role (no spoilers).
--Nice job being matter-of-fact about the married male couple who live across the street. Right on.
--Darla is a bit of a Mary Sue, but it's tolerable, especially when she's just using it as a front.
--Again with the rape. Just once, I'd like to read a postapocalyptic novel that concentrated on people cooperating to rebuild the world, or gave us something else to motivate the character, or hell, even used MALE rape as the plot device. I know, I know, it's not "realistic." But guess what, people? That's why they call it "fiction." Maybe if we model something else for once, it might become more prevalent. I can dream. It's not enough to put me off the book entirely, but it's SO LAZY and tired. Come on, Mullin--you've got promise, just think outside the proverbial box. This one wasn't even necessary to the plot. /soapbox
All in all, this is a fine start to the series--it's The Road
with more action, more hope, more accessible characters, and clearer language. I'll definitely read the next one.