07 March 2013

The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

Flap Copy from ARC: "The Elementals" is the story of a young woman named Ariel, who is facing the challenges of being away at college for the first time while her mother battles cancer at home. Ariel is also deeply haunted by the disappearance of her best friend, Jeni, and to uncover the truth of what happened to her friend, she is going to find herself lured into a group of strange and mysterious characters. As the answers begin to unravel, Ariel will be forced to make the most chilling decision of her life."

Faeries ... potions ... mysterious rituals ... forbidden sex ... need I say more? 'The Elementals' by Francesca Lia Block is a novel with some mature adult themes but enough juvenile allusions to anchor it strongly in the YA category. The author has a beautiful, lyric quality to her writing that draws the reader into the strange world of her creation; I found myself sucked in and unable to put down the book, even as the antics of the main characters frustrated and annoyed me. I wanted this book to be great, because the quality of writing is top notch, but the plot itself was mediocre and predictable.

Ariel (cue the first Shakespeare reference) has just arrived at college but is haunted by the disappearance of her best friend and by her mother's illness. She is socially awkward, deeply introverted, and a lover of poetry (yes, she quite neatly fits a certain stereotype). As she half-heartedly searches for her friend and at the same time begins her own downward spiral into depression and confusion, Ariel meets a strange trio of older students, who live off campus in a huge and mysterious house where alluring parties and bizarre practices abound.

I found the twists and turns of the plot to be predictable and a bit boring, and I kept waiting for Ariel to mature into some sort of better character, a person with whom I could relate, or at least sympathize. But those hopes never materialized. I give this book two stars - the writing is wonderful, but the story is unworthy of its beauty.

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