The Elephant Mountains


When the levees finally break, survival is the first priority. Hope is the second. A gun and a boat are a close third.

Global warming and an unprecedented series of hurricanes have put New Orleans and most of the low-lying areas of the South underwater. In the chaos and anarchy that results as cities and towns are abandoned, fifteen-year-old Stephen is suddenly left to fend for himself. He soon encounters Angela, a college student whose parents have been killed. Navigating the ...

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The Elephant Mountains

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When the levees finally break, survival is the first priority. Hope is the second. A gun and a boat are a close third.

Global warming and an unprecedented series of hurricanes have put New Orleans and most of the low-lying areas of the South underwater. In the chaos and anarchy that results as cities and towns are abandoned, fifteen-year-old Stephen is suddenly left to fend for himself. He soon encounters Angela, a college student whose parents have been killed. Navigating the labyrinth of flooded fields and towns in an airboat, the two set out in search of Stephen's mother and higher ground.
Armed with both guns and the skills his survivalist father has taught him, Stephen struggles to maintain hope and his humanity in the face of violence and desperation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Adult author Ely (Dream Fishing) makes a mostly successful YA debut with this survival tale. In a dystopian near-future in which global warming and superhurricanes have sunk a good part of the southeastern U.S., 15-year-old Stephen is stranded in rural Louisiana. When raiders kill his survivalist father, Stephen heads for New Orleans, where his mother is living. En route, he encounters Angela, a recently orphaned college student, and the two of them meet a variety of fellow survivors on their travels, from an amoral bartender to a pair of repentant prisoners. Ely nicely conveys the mingled hope and despair that pervade the atmosphere, but Stephen comes across as disaffected, like a Faulknerian character out of place in too simple a narrative. Stephen’s lack of emotion from the outset masks any sense of growing unease at his increased exposure to violence and cynicism (and makes his emotional connections oddly unsatisfying). A general reliance on coincidence to move the plot along doesn’t help, but the large cast, well-crafted action, and strong sense of place carry the book far. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
"Readers...may relate to [Stephen's] character and relish the chance to exercise their own survivalist imaginations."
Library Media Connection
"This is a story that will tap into students' survivalist instincts and explores themes of humanity and morality. A blunt, edgy narrative chronicles the action. Gary Paulsen fans will enjoy this read."
Beyond the Bookshelf blog
"A fairly short but enjoyable read...I really liked the survival elements of the novel, and the writing was very good. Stephen's resentment towards his mother was also very believable as well, making it easy for readers to relate to the character. I enjoyed the author's writing style as well: it was smooth and easy-to-follow, making it easy to finish the novel within a few hours...I recommend this book for any guys looking for a gritty, action-packed dystopian novel (and ladies as well!)."
CM Magazine
"The pacing really allows readers to connect with the characters and also allows the characters to develop along with the story...A spectrum of human behaviour is portrayed, from those who will help others to those who will kill without provocation...[The novel] reflects the actual conditions that could exist after a natural disaster, and Ely makes no attempts to sugarcoat anything. This gives the story extra depth and believability. The Elephant Mountains is a well-written story about survival after a natural disaster that can be enjoyed by a variety of readers. Recommended."
Resource Links
"The characters are likeable and the plot quickly paced. This novel would appeal to anyone who enjoys dystopian societies or who wonders what global warning will do to humanity."
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
"Readers...may relate to [Stephen's] character and relish the chance to exercise their own survivalist imaginations."
Tri State YA Book Review Committee
"The gritty realism will hook fans of adventure thrillers...The large print and small number of pages will initially appeal, but the plot will grab readers and leave them wishing for a sequel."
The Horn Book Guide
"An intriguing look at human nature in the face of extreme disaster."
Eastern New Jersey Regional Library Cooperative
"Well-written with interesting characters and graphic descriptions."
Children's Literature - Denise Daley
Anarchy arises from what is left of the flood ravaged cities. Global warming has caused a series of destructive weather events including hurricanes that cause the levees in New Orleans to break. Unable to control the chaos, the National Guard has left the area. Fourteen-year-old Stephen lives with his army veteran dad who has a supply of guns, ammunition, food, water, and even a small motor boat. When thugs attack, however, Stephen's dad is murdered. Alone, Stephen takes the supplies and begins a journey through the mosquito infested swamps. He meets a college student named Angela and she joins Stephen. Together they become warriors, fighting for survival in a dangerous and uncertain area. Their small boat passes by dead bodies, alligators, and housing debris. They encounter escaped prisoners, scared families, and remorseless thieves and murderers as they try to survive and hope to find a safe haven. This riveting book is hard to put down. It is filled with suspense and action. No one can be trusted. Stephen becomes a man in more than one way as he struggles to defend himself and Angela and as they continue to hope that there is a better future, perhaps amid the back of one of the elephants that are now roaming the Rocky Mountains. Reviewer: Denise Daley
VOYA - Mark Letcher
In the aftermath of a series of large and near-simultaneous hurricanes, much of the lower Mississippi River valley is under water. Where Stephen lives, near New Orleans, even the authorities have left, leaving those who remain to survive on their own, at the mercy of roaming thieves and murderers. When Stephen's father is killed, Stephen decides he must leave their house to try to find his mother, if she is still in New Orleans. Along the way, he picks up Angela, whose own parents have been killed; together, they make their way along the newly formed rivers and swamps, hoping to stay unobserved, and make it to higher ground. Ely's first novel for young adult readers is billed as a survivalist adventure, and while Stephen does prove resourceful, his and Angela's progress depends just as much on their chance encounters with others, many of whom unfortunately end up dead soon after. The constant boat travel and the repeated grotesque deaths depicted numb a reader about midway through the book, which certainly reflects Stephen's own disassociation from the violence that he has seen and perpetrated himself. Still, by the end of the novel, it is hard to even identify or care about Stephen's quest, and the final pages seem rushed. This is recommended for older readers due to the violent scenes and a sexual encounter between Stephen and Angela. Readers interested in survival stories may pick this up, but for better character development, Gary Paulsen or Will Hobbs would be better options. Reviewer: Mark Letcher
Kirkus Reviews

A fast-paced, brutal story of survival delivered in a clipped, no-frills style.

Fifteen-year-old Stephen lives in a not-so-distant future in which multiple severe hurricanes and increasing global warming has made swampland out of much of the southern United States. The devastating flooding has caused most of the survivors to flee, and those who stayed behind get by as best they can. Luckily, Stephen's father, an Iraq War veteran, teaches him everything he'll need to know to keep himself alive. When his father is murdered, Stephen has to put all of those lessons to immediate use. Stephen decides to see if he can find his mother, who is supposedly still in New Orleans. On his way to find her, Stephen meets Angela, a college student whose parents have also been killed. The two join forces and head by boat toward New Orleans. Their will to live is tested again and again as they make their way through a world that has dissolved into anarchy and random violence. Even in the midst of this day-to-day drama, Stephen finds himself sorting out his feelings for Angela, which are complicated by the attraction/revulsion he harbors for his mother; he is haunted by his memories of her and the parade of lovers she hosted in their home before Stephen moved out to live with his father. What will happen when he finds her again? The straightforward third-person narration chronicles the action bluntly.

Equal parts interesting and unsettling, this one may appeal to fans of Gordon Korman and Gary Paulsen. (Fiction. 14 & up)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554694068
  • Publisher: Orca Book Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Pages: 216
  • Sales rank: 970,516
  • Age range: 12 - 18 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Ely received his MFA from the University of Arkansas and now teaches writing at Winthrop University in South Carolina. He has published five novels and four collections of short stories. The Elephant Mountains is his first novel for young adult readers. He lives in Rock Hill, South Carolina, with his wife, the poet Susan Ludvigson, and several dogs.
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Read an Excerpt

"You cut yourself off from those you kill," his father said. "They're just targets. But if you push too hard on that, then you cut yourself off from everyone."

"Everyone?" Stephen asked.

"Yes, from love. Do you understand?"

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