Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Review: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

Title: The Elementals
Author: Francesca Lia Block
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Age Group: Adult
Category: Mystery/ Magical realism
Release date: October 16th, 2012
Pages: 272 (Hardcover)
Rating: 5 out of 5
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon | Author

From a star YA author—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.

A year ago, Ariel's best friend, Jeni, disappeared on a trip to Berkeley.  When Ariel moves there for college, she has a lot more on her mind than the typical student.  She's determined to find her friend, or at the very least, what happened.  On top of that, her mother is diagnosed with cancer and Ariel doesn't seem to fit in with the college life as well as she hoped, but when she meets John Graves and his group of beautiful and intriguing friends, Ariel is hooked.  Will they help her find Jeni, or will they just throw her off track?

One thing I love about Francesca's books is that she can make any place feel magical.  Ariel's life isn't at all glamorous, which is why she's so attracted to these mysterious grad students.  They wear extravagant clothing, drink wine and eat food that's just as good as the way her mother made it.  There's something seductive about them that makes this main character feel as though she would do anything to please them, anything to make them love her back.

The reader really feels sympathy towards Ariel.  Her mother is clearly not getting any better, the more time it takes to find Jeni, the more Ariel realizes that the possibility of her being alive is slim.  It's her first time away from her family, which is tough by itself, but then she gets mixed up with these people and it's clear that they're not very good for her from the start.  Her focus starts to disappear as they become the substitute for everything she's lost in the past few months.

The Elementals is a perfect mixture of magical realism and mystery, and I think many will be shocked at what is revealed throughout the story.  Francesca Lia Block is one of my favorite authors for a reason, and this book definitely doesn't disappoint.


  1. I have a book from this author waiting for me, but I haven't got the time yet. It's great when an author can make a place feel magical. Nice review :)

  2. A new kind of outlook on a murder mystery. I really enjoyed the unique way the author approached the search for the missing girl. Kept me guessing for sure.

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