The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf
by Ambelin Kwaymullina
Middle School, High School Candlewick 371 pp.
4/14 978-0-7636-6988-1 $17.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-7636-7225-6 $17.99
In this Australian import, Ashala Wolf is head of the Tribe, a group of refugees deemed Illegals because of their supernatural abilities, which the government claims threaten the world’s fragile Balance. Some Illegals can conjure fire; others can heal or run preternaturally fast, fly, or alter memory. Ashala can Sleepwalk to make her dreams come true, but her real value is as leader of the Tribe — so when she’s incarcerated by an evil megalomaniac with a computer that steals memories, it’s a grave threat to Illegals’ survival. But Ashala’s story isn’t quite what it first seems to be, as we learn when she finally accesses memories she’s succeeded in hiding from her opponent. Kwaymullina’s convoluted political plot is buoyed by the freshness of her imagery: a forest called Firstwood, which is conscious of its inhabitants; lizard-like “saurs” that communicate telepathically; and the particular gifts and animal connections expressed by the Illegals. Ashala narrates her story with an earnest adolescent voice — not quirky or vivid, but responsible, loyal, and wholesome. While Kwaymullina’s prose style doesn’t sparkle, this futuristic fantasy offers an admirable heroine and a thought-provoking situation.
From the March/April 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.