Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

Alex is on a final hike before a brain tumor devours her last days of life when an electromagnetic pulse wipes out every computerized system, kills most adults, and changes nearly all teenagers into cannibalistic zombies. The strange pulse also leaves a select few, including a now possibly tumor-free Alex, with heightened senses. Initially lost and alone in her new world, Alex meets a soldier named Tom and a young girl whose grandfather was killed by the pulse. The first half of the novel follows this makeshift family as they fight to survive in the wilderness and avoid crazed zombies, while the second half follows Alex’s discovery of other camps of survivors and the subcultures birthed by the zombie-apocalypse. Ilsa J. Bick has created a fast-paced, grim, and tense novel set primarily in a never-ending expanse of desolate woods, which lends itself well to the creepy atmosphere. While the love story feels forced at first, and the main character seems equipped with an overabundance of innate survival knowledge, the characters are unique and multidimensional, and the unfolding story has great potential for subsequent novels. Given that, this is the first novel in a trilogy, so be warned: the massive cliffhanger ending of book one will make you rush out to read the second book.