Under the Ashes by Cindy Rankin

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I received a copy of this book from Netgalley/the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Under The Ashes is a middle grade novel written by Cindy Rankin. Littlebeth is a lively and spirited girl whose spirited ways get her into trouble with her family one time too many. She is sent away to San Francisco to live with her Aunt Sally.

Almost immediately, Littlebeth notices that their kind neighbor Mr. Steinberg appears interested in Aunt Sally. But before Littlebeth can come up with a plan to bring her aunt and Mr. Steinberg together, she wakes up to a massive earthquake. Suddenly, Littlebeth must fight for survival. Between the fires that engulf the buildings that weren’t reduced to rubble, and the pandemonium amongst the survivors, this is going to be Littlebeth’s biggest challenge yet.

2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. This is the third book that I have read this year featuring the infamous natural disaster, although the other two books were a young adult novel and a historical mystery. All three of these books provide a unique take on the earthquake, and the ensuing chaos afterward.

Under the Ashes is a good book. Its strongest point is its protagonist. Littlebeth is slightly unrefined, but her heart is always in the right place. She doesn’t try to be naughty; it just seems like trouble finds her no matter what she does. The book is a first person narrative, so the reader has the benefit of hearing Littlebeth’s insights directly from the girl herself.

However, the book feels rushed. There is so much going on, and so much that needs to happen, and it doesn’t seem like there is enough time for the character development that needs to happen in order for the reader to have enough appreciation for the direction the plot takes. I’m not sure if the target audience will even notice this, but as an adult reader, it was a little disappointing that there wasn’t enough book. Let me repeat- there’s nothing wrong with this delightful book other than there was not enough of it.

I would recommend Under the Ashes to middle grade readers. It’s always nice to see spirited female protagonists. Littlebeth demonstrates resilience and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. I am looking forward to reading more from Cindy Rankin.

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