I’ve been doing a little cleaning tonight while Sang is at work teaching. The method I’m using is, “Step through the front door and see what first strikes you as messy.” Which turned out to be the stacks of books and papers and mail on the barstools. And one of the books was Ambelin Kwaymullina’s The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf, which I want to tell you about before I put it back on the shelf. Ambelin Kwaymullina is an Indigenous author from Western Australia, and this book is the first in her four-book series of YA dystopian novels.
YA dystopia can go either way for me. Sometimes I open a book and see all those capitalized general nouns (the Illegals, the Citizens, the Balance) and just can’t get into it. But this one got me past that with a badass protagonist and her crew, kids with superpowers basically. Ashala’s tagline: “I walk among my enemies. But I carry my friends with me.” And the friends are varied and imperfect.
But what really set it apart for me is the structure of flashbacks and reveals. The flashbacks are in a different typeface, and flipping through, it looks like maybe a third of the book is flashback. I would come to a flashback section and kind of set my teeth to get through it. You know what I mean? I was willing to do it to fill in the information I needed, but I was anticipating an extra effort and less momentum because we were out of the main storyline. But every time, I would get completely sucked in and wasn’t on that secondary track in my head at all, plus I was reinterpreting what I’d already read.
I don’t follow the genre that closely, but it kinda seems like this one should be getting more attention. It’s the first of a four-book series, but didn’t end on a cliffhanger. The second book has been published in Australia. I hope Candlewick does the US edition of all four.