The Girl Who Talks to Ashes by Rachel Rener

Fifteen-year-old Willow is terrified of her new baby, Lilah, who has a peculiar form of epilepsy. Every time Lilah’s eyes glaze over, terrible things happen: flowers shrivel, food goes to rot – even Willow’s long, auburn hair turns stark white. But it’s the death of the family cat that becomes the last straw; in the middle of the night, Willow and her mother dump the infant at the fire station two towns over – and are never heard from again. 

The next morning, Chief Stanley Quinn takes Lilah home and cares for the toddler as best as he can. With medication, her epilepsy remains under control… For the most part.

But as a teenager, Lilah isn’t always keen on taking her pills, and when she sneaks away to a rock concert with the cutest boy in school, something terrible happens, landing both of them in the hospital. After Stanley breaks down and confesses everything to his adopted daughter, she decides to track down the young girl who gave her up sixteen years ago; the young girl who never made it home that night… The young girl who is now presumed to be dead. Soon, Lilah’s quest to find her birth mother becomes a quest to solve a sixteen-year-old missing persons case. She has everything she needs to find her – she just needs to learn how to control her peculiar ‘gift’ before she kills someone.

Amazon US | goodreads

My Review

The Girl Who Talks to Ashes is a YA contemporary fantasy set in the recent past (no cell phones) that had me engrossed right from the start! It’s ingenious premise of a baby who could affect the timeline around her whenever she suffered from an epileptic fit and the complicated consequences of this ‘superpower’ as she grew older was really intriguing!
This is the first of Rachel Rener’s books that I have read but it will not be the last – I loved the easy writing style and the believable dialogue. There was a layer of teenage angst and a fledgling relationship between the main character and the boy who she thought was too good for her, which was heartwarming. The descriptions of the locations in the narrative were very visual and I could easily imagine this story as a movie or TV series, with this as the pilot episode.
Stanley, Lilah’s adoptive father who found her abandoned outside the fire station was a great character – very solid and dependable. He is struggling his way through life as a single dad and widower doing everything he can to protect Lilah and keep her on the straight and narrow. His inner dialogue was credible and he was a very likeable character.
There were some scenes which bordered on horror – when people/animals in the vicinity of Lilah aged during one of her seizures but mostly this was a hard to put down easy read! I do think that when Lilah’s affliction/power was explained to people (Jace and the chief of police) it was accepted too readily by them. Lilah had to demonstrate what she had told them for them to believe her, but then there didn’t seem to be an appropriate level of shock at what they had seen. I think the down to earth chief of police would have assumed some kind of trick was being played on him and would have needed more convincing – but this is a small niggle. I also think more could have been made of the scene in which Celeste and Willow pull over to help the girl in the red raincoat. It wasn’t clear to me that this had been a car jacking scene until much later in the book.

I really liked the images of the appleseed/ripe apple/decaying apple used at the start of each chapter to hint at the timeline in that chapter.

I received an advance review copy for free from Book Sirens, and I am leaving this review voluntarily. 

About the Author

Rachel Rener is a contemporary fantasy author who loves blurring the line between science and magic in all of her work.

She graduated from the University of Colorado after focusing on Psychology and Neuroscience. Since then, she has lived on three continents and has traveled to more than 40 countries.

When she’s not engrossed in writing, Rachel enjoys art of all kinds, riding her motorcycle, reading fantasy books, going to rock shows (both musical and mineralogical), Vulcanology (the lava kind as well as the pointy-eared variety), and playing video games. She lives in Colorado along with her husband, a stellar mineral collection, and a sassy umbrella cockatoo that hangs out on her shoulder as she writes – whether invited or not.

Find out more about Rachel and her books at

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