The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
By Ambelin Kwaymullina
(Candlewick Press (MA), Hardcover, 9780763669881, 369pp.)
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
List Price: $17.99*
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A compelling debut novel asks what happens when children develop inexplicable abilities—and the government sees them as a threat.
They’re known as Firestarters. Boomers. Skychangers. The government calls them Illegals — children with inexplicable abilities — and detains them in menacing facilities so that society is kept out of harm’s way. Ashala Wolf and her Tribe of fellow Illegals have taken refuge in the Firstwood, a forest eerily conscious of its inhabitants, where they do their best to survive and where they are free to practice their abilities. But when Ashala is compelled to venture outside her territory, she is betrayed by a friend and captured by an enemy. Injured and vulnerable, with her own Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to a machine that will pull secrets from her mind. It’s only a matter of time before the machine ferrets out the location of the Tribe. Her betrayer, Justin Connor, is ever-present, saving her life when she wishes to die and watching her every move. Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?
The indigenous Australian author draws from a vast, rich cultural tapestry that will be new to many readers. If an "exhilarating dystopia" strikes you as oxymoronic, this vivid, original debut just might change your mind.
The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf begins like most dystopian novels, but it does not take long for Kwaymullina to take the reader on a very different journey. As the layers of Ashala’s memories are pulled back, the reader is treated to an intense thriller that just happens to take place in a dystopian society. Though it is the first in a series, the novel reads like a stand-alone, tying up enough loose ends to satisfy the reader while still leaving them wanting more.
Ashala narrates her story with an earnest adolescent voice... This futuristic fantasy offers an admirable heroine and a thought-provoking situation.
—The Horn Book
This genre-blending story will satisfy a wide range of readers. ... The multilayered story will keep teens guessing until the end. ... The author draws upon aboriginal Australian creation stories to bring much needed diversity to the genre.
A series of flashbacks slowly unravels the intricate setup, working backwards in a way that imbues Ashala’s current situation with more meaning as the past is revealed, raising the stakes and the tension. ... The dystopian world here offers ... more nuance than the traditional fare.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
Creative... The world-building is particularly interesting, as the author incorporates elements of the aboriginal creation story of the Dreamtime and Grandfather Serpent into the protagonist’s visions. Give this one to dystopia fans who are looking for a unique perspective.
—School Library Journal