Monday, October 14, 2013

Julie's Review: The Elementals

Summary: From a star YA writer Francesca Lia Block, author of the Weetzie Bat books, comes an adult novel about a student, haunted by the disappearance of a friend, who must face the truth.  The Elementals is on one level an intriguing coming-of-age novel about a young woman, Ariel Silverman, facing the challenges of her first years away at college in Berkeley, California, while her mother battles cancer at home in Los Angeles. But the book takes on deeper, stranger meanings when we realize that Ariel is haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, who vanished without a trace a few years before, closing Ariel's heart and changing her forever. Ariel wonders if she will ever be fully alive, until she meets three mysterious, beautiful and seductive young people living in a strange old house in the Berkeley hills. Through them Ariel will unravel the mystery of her best friend's disappearance and face a chilling choice.

Review: First off I have to say that the cover of this book totally fits in with the novel. It is dark and mysterious. Who's the girl? Is it our heroine, Ariel? Is it her missing friend, Jeni? Is it the uber-mysterious, Tania? Even after finishing the book, I'm not sure.

I've never read Ms. Block before so this was an intriguing foray into a new author. Her prose is stunning. She has a way of writing that is lush, hypnotic, eerie and sensual. Like Ariel, you kind of float through the words while reading them. I liked Ariel but moreso, I felt sorry for her. She was stuck. She was lost. She didn't know how to move on from her pain of losing Jeni. Her parents didn't know how to move her past the pain either. Not only that but her mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. To get her out of the house during her mother's battle, they allowed her to go to Berkley, the place where Jeni disappeared to attend school. I don't know if I agreed with that decision but then there would be no novel.

Ariel doesn't fit in at school. She's a bookish young lady and is harassed for this by the other students in her dorm. I get the idea that Ariel would be pretty if she attempted it. She just doesn't care. She randomly goes to a house in the hills for a Halloween party and this is where she meets the mysterious trio; John, Tania and Perry. It is John that she is immediately drawn to. It is John that sends a jolt through her body to her very soul. Unfortunately, she can't have John without the other two. They are a packaged deal.

Much of the novel is Ariel living in a daze/haze trying to find Jeni. When she's not looking for Jeni, she feels guilty. When she's with John she feels alive and when she's without him she goes through withdrawals. It's like he's a drug for her. Now, all of us have had those intense relationships at some point but reading this I felt there was something different.

While The Elementals is a short novel, I wanted the story of what happened to Jeni to be resolved earlier. At times it felt like Ariel was repeating herself. Also, I think I could have done with out the epilogue. I was fine with it ending where it did without it.

While reading the book I did get hypnotized with the writing. I could picture the house and the lush gardens described. Ms. Block has a divine way of writing atmosphere.

If you are looking for a novel with a gothic bent, then The Elementals is for you. I'm not sure I would let a teen read this but would recommend it to someone in their early 20s.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to St. Martin's Press for my copy of the novel. This is the October pick for the Hashtag Book Group. You can find our conversation by searching #TheElementals on Twitter.



Unknown October 18, 2013 at 9:35 AM  

I'll been so behind, I haven't even started this one, but your review, and I skimmed I'll be honest, has me more interested. Great job Julie.

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