Publishing Info: October 16, 2012 by Random House Publishing Group
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Contemporary, Magical Realism, Mystery/Thriller, New Adult, Young Adult
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // GoodreadsDate Completed: October 21, 2012
From star YA author Francesca Lia Block comes an adult novel about a student haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, desperate to find and withstand the truth.
The Elementals is on one level a contemporary story 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 contend with Ariel's obsession with the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, who vanished without a trace a few years before. Her emptiness of spirit seems finally to find some healing with three mysterious, beautiful and seductive young people living in a strange old house in the Berkeley hills. But at what price?
Well this was quite different than what I was expecting so I’m not really sure quite how to review it. It’s a very different kind of book – part mystery, part horror, part magical-realism — and despite how uncharacteristic it is of my usual reads, I really was sucked in until the very end. I will say that Block does a great job of keeping the reader curious regarding what happened to Jeni, what will happen to Ariel and her new band of misfit friends, and also what will happen with her mother.
That being said, as much as I was entranced, it was more like I simply couldn’t tear myself away, but definitely more in a messed-up kind of way. It was actually kind of sad for me to read because here we see Ariel, starting college at 17 (I’m guessing she had a late birthday) and she is so purely innocent. Never even having kissed a boy (although I’ll stay kissing your best girl friend is still weird to me), no drugs, no alcohol — and we just see her entire innocence ruined throughout her stay in college. True, I guess it could be said that she never would have been in that position if Jeni hadn’t gone missing and her mother hadn’t had cancer – but even still, I’d like to say that I wouldn’t have gone through any kind of course of action like that if I had been in the same position.
I think the biggest message I took away from this story is how much more college-age is “coming of age” versus high school and young adult. Once you’re away from your family, your home, every comfort that you once had, I’d say you’re that much more vulnerable to try new things, find new dangers, and seek more excitement. When you’re shaping your life yourself and taking these chances on your own, I think that’s a time where you change so much more than in what I’d say is the more traditionally thought of “coming of age” range in high school.
Ariel: Poor Ariel. Lost her best friend, barely clinging to her mother, and ripped from all familiarity. I sincerely felt bad for her and it was kind of a heartbreaking story because I just felt like she was getting taken advantage of and everyone in the story was totally abusing her innocence. I can’t say that I liked her or disliked her, really. She was just really hard for me to relate to.
John: John kind of creeped me out in the sense that he kept switching back and forth from feeling strange and dangerous to maybe being a good support for Ariel. Even after the finishing the book I’m still undecided!
Tania: I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near Tania. Right of the bat she seemed like she had hidden motives wrapped in pretty packaging to entice you and reel you in. She was way too involved in her “other world” which was kind of odd and out there. I think she was the most frustrating character of the book!
p8: “But you just can’t run faster than time, not faster than death and, as I’d find out, not faster than love.”
p219: “When I went away to school I had thought I was a grown-up but now I realized that even at twenty I was still a child who was just learning who she was and how to take care of herself.”
I was interested but it wasn’t quite a book that really stuck with me. Somehow I couldn’t stop reading but overall, I really didn’t love it or connect with it.