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The Elementals
by Francesca Lia Block


Ariel Silverman always expected that she and her best friend, Jeni, would be together. But on a class trip to visit UC Berkeley, Jeni disappeared, and a year later her absence haunts Ariel. However, she decides to continue upon the path they'd planned and enrolls at UC Berkeley. Her parents are initially reluctant to send her away, but after her mother is diagnosed with cancer they decide that a new start for Ariel might be the best thing. Once she's at university, Ariel drifts. Her classes are fine but she can't seem to make any friends, and she can't let go of Jeni. Finally, one Halloween she attends a party unlike any she's ever seen, and finds a mysterious new group of friends. They're beautiful and sultry, hypnotic and enchanting. Ariel finds them intoxicating, especially the handsome John Graves. She's being sucked into their exotic, gothic world, but she can never quite shake the feeling of danger that lingers behind every encounter.

Francesca Lia Block is one of those authors that has been on the edge of my radar for years, but I never quite got around reading her books. I finally decided to bite the bullet when The Elementals was released, since it was her first adult novel and I could be reasonably sure that I wouldn't inadvertently pick up a book that was part of a series. (I'm told by other fans of her work that some of her other characters make cameo appearances in The Elementals.)

Ariel is quite young and naïve at the beginning of the book. Seventeen and never been kissed, cautious and sheltered by loving parents, traumatized by the loss of her closest and only friend. She's lonely and isolated, especially since her parents are so wrapped up in her mom's medical problems that they aren't really there, emotionally. I really felt sorry for her. She's a kid having a miserable time, but she doesn't give up. Ariel goes to school – UC Berkeley is not an easy college, by any stretch of the imagination – and tries to carry on with her life when others would be broken by the burden of her problems. Throughout the book, the reader is left wondering if Ariel is a reliable narrator. Are the events she reports actually happening in the manner she describes them, or is her longing for community distorting and warping her perceptions? By the end of the story, I had decided for myself that we could trust her version of events, but I'd love to hear if other people who read the book interpreted it the same way.

There's a magic realism in the story; it may be all in Ariel's head, or it may really be happening. It's hard to be sure. With this supernatural undercurrent, the tale reminded me of the old ballad of Tam Lin. (The fairy tale may have been mentioned in the book; I don't remember a direct reference but 'Tam Lin' was written in my notes multiple times.) Just who fills the role of Tam Lin seems to fluctuate throughout; at one point, it's Ariel, while at other times her lover John Graves is the man trapped by the faeries.

All in all, a lovely book written in with a haunting, melodic prose. Fans of modern fairy tales and Francesca Lia Block will be pleased.

4 out of 5 stars


To read more about The Elementals, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.




Peeking into the archives...today in:
2011: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
2010: Blackout by Connie Willis
2009: 10 Comic Book Series You Need to Check Out, Part II
2008: Something Wickedly Weird #2: The Icy Hand by Chris Mould

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
frost
Jan. 2nd, 2013 03:01 am (UTC)
Happy New Year! =)

It sounds interesting; I've added it to my wishlist.
Thank you for the review.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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