The Ash House

Angharad Walker. Chicken House, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-338-63631-4
Debut author Walker spins a tense tale of abuse and neglect that centers on a brown-skinned foster child’s arrival at an imposing, smoke-drenched mansion made of ash. After being sent from a hospital to the Ash House, a boy dubbed Solitude, who experiences back pain and seizures, struggles to fit in with the institution’s other children. The kids live on their own in service of rigid, moralistic “Nicenesses”—taking on virtuous names such as Freedom, educating themselves using prerecorded lectures, maintaining the grounds, and tethering their lives to an unbreakable “web of habits and rules”—while longing for their absent Headmaster and dreading the cold and pitiless Doctor’s reappearance. Sol bristles at the others’ inflexibility, resulting in acrimony and accusations of “nastiness,” but when the Doctor returns and Sol is the subject of a medical procedure gone awry, a brutal act with which the group has some experience, he must persuade his reluctant new acquaintances to escape, braving birdlike drones and lantern-eyed creatures en route to the outside world. Simultaneously bleak, moving, and unsettling, Walker’s immersive story slowly reveals its secrets, using tension as a lever to tip the reader deep into the Ash House’s mysteries. Ages 8–12. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 12/17/2020
Release date: 02/02/2021
Genre: Children's
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