From a star YA author Francesca Lia Blockan 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.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.44(w) x 9.32(h) x 0.96(d)|
About the Author
FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK is the author of twenty-eight books, with four more forthcoming. She is the recipient of the ALA Lifetime Achievement Award, among other awards, and is published all over the world.
Read an Excerpt
1. Death is one of them
There are certain things you have to accept. Death is one of them. But when you are seventeen and your mother sits you down and says what my mother said it is really hard to accept death. When you are sixteen and your best friend vanishes without a trace it is hard to accept death. You keep thinking there has been some kind of mistake. Or that you can do something to stop this thing that is so much bigger than you are. Or that, at least, you can make it go away by pretending it isn’t there, like a child who covers her eyes and thinks she is invisible to everyone else.
But death is stronger than that and when you cover your eyes you are the one who can’t see the dark. The dark still sees you.
* * *
My parents hadn’t agreed to let me go away to Berkeley the day they sat me down on the couch in the living room to tell me my mom was sick. We never really used that couch because we liked to hang out in the kitchen, or sit in the den and watch TV together. The living room couch was overstuffed and pale enough to show stains. We saved it for company and important talks. It is where we sat when my parents told me that Jeni had not come back from the school trip to UC Berkeley, the trip I should have gone on with her. It is where the detectives showed us her image from the dorm surveillance camera as she went out alone. It is where we sat the day my mom told me she had cancer.
“We have to talk to you about something,” my dad said. His eyes looked puffy and he was holding my mom’s hand too tightly.
“What’s wrong?” My heart beat faster. It’s like your body always knows before you do.
“I got back some test results,” my mom said. “There is a problem but we’re going to do everything we can to take care of it.”
When I was little I used to ask them how long they would live and my mom always said, “We plan on being around for many, many years.” I realized, then, for the first time, at seventeen, that it was the perfect answer because I could never accuse her of lying to me, just in case. Now she hadn’t said, “We’re going to take care of it.” She had said, “We’re going to do everything we can…”
My right hand fumbled with the bracelet on my left wrist. Jeni had made it for me with baby block beads, and one for herself that said my name. I never took it off. Besides the postcard that arrived after she disappeared, it was the most important thing of hers I had left. “What’s wrong?” I didn’t really want to know but I figured that was what I was supposed to say.
“I have a small growth.” My mother was looking directly at me and she wasn’t crying. She sat up straighter, smoothed back her hair and then leaned forward with her elbows on her knees. I wanted her to hold me and also I didn’t. Mostly, I wanted to run.
“A tumor,” she said. “It’s not benign. They have to do some procedures.”
“I think I have to go.” I swallowed back the huge lump of sand that was getting bigger every second at the base of my hourglass throat.
“Okay,” my dad said. “But if you have any questions, we’re here.”
Part of me wished they had made me stay. I wanted them to grab me and hold me down and reassure me, but they didn’t. They were looking at each other with so much love, sealed up in this bubble where no one could touch them. It was the first time I hadn’t been in there, too.
It was hard to move; it felt like there was a mass in my chest, weighing me down, and my arms and legs tingled as if they were expanding to the size of a giant’s, but I made myself stand. As I did, I felt the photographs watching me. My mom never put up paintings, just family pictures scattered among the rows of books on the bookcase. There were artsy black-and-whites of me as an infant and huge glossy prints from their wedding. There were all my silly school photos with the swirly blue backgrounds and our professional Christmas shots with the good lighting. There were photos of me in costume for my ballet recitals. A picture of me and Jeni, laughing as she held my waist-length braid under her nose like a moustache. In the pictures before the previous summer I looked hopeful and smiling and even pretty, I guess, as my mom and Jeni always insisted I was, but in the few taken after that, the ones taken after Jeni vanished, I looked pale and lost beneath my too-long hair, wraithlike you might say, fading away. But I realized that the girl in all the pictures—the ones before Jeni and the ones afterward—was different, suddenly, than the girl the pictures were watching.
I walked past all those eyes to the door and stepped outside. It was a hot late spring afternoon. The sky burned blue and the eucalyptus trees gave off a smell like medicine. One black bird strutted across the grass in front of our house. He paused and turned his head so I could see a cold black eye.
That was when I started to run. I ran and ran as fast as I could along the pavement. Sweat poured down my face, mixing with the tears that had started to come. I could run fast. But you just can’t run faster than time, not faster than death and, as I’d find out, not faster than love.
Copyright © 2012 by Francesca Lia Block
Table of Contents
PART I: Freshman Year,
1. Death is one of them,
2. Les bienfaits de la lune,
3. The residue of lonely,
4. House of Eidolon,
5. That her bones had been found,
6. When it hurts the most,
7. The gloaming,
8. The way you are suddenly somewhere in a dream,
9. What you first fall in love with,
10. And blood was blood,
11. Things that are there that you can't see,
12. The secret places I'd show you,
13. Nor can the circles of the stars tire out their dancing feet,
14. The cold reminder of the dead,
15. The moon, the goddess, the dark world,
16. I lay here before and he watched over me,
17. The city that already looked like a place you would go after you died,
18. If you partake of the food of fae can you ever leave?,
19. As if we were starving,
20. Whatever I could retrieve of his soul,
21. When couples married and drank mead,
PART II: Sophomore Year,
22. Because I am,
23. Giantess boudoir,
24. You'd better change,
25. Deep as marrow,
26. Whether they are ghosts or memories,
27. Vigilant, our magic,
28. A man happened by,
PART III: Junior Year,
29. A woman? Was I that?,
30. Other magics,
31. Or the Wilding,
32. The dead bride of nothing,
33. An angel, not,
34. Where the key talked to the girl,
Preview: Beyond the Pale Motel,
Also by Francesca Lia Block,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I loved this book. It was so unique, and seriously could not put it down unless I was at work.
My thanks to the author for lending me her copy to review. This is a very hard review to do unbiased, as Block is my mentor, but I will try nonetheless.This is also generally a pretty difficult review to write, mostly because of how much the book moved me. I don¿t say that often in my reviews, but I had to pause more than once when reading this because my eyes just kept filling up. While Ariel gets a happily ever after in this book and (presumably, since it¿s not concretely sketched out for us at the end of the book) her cancer-stricken mother does too, unfortunately, Block¿s mother did not. Gilda Block died almost two years ago, and this book is dedicated to her ¿ and I think Gilda would be very, very proud of this book. Block wrote this from a place of grief, but all the same, that same grief moved her to a place that¿s above some of her most wonderful works to date. ¿The Elementals¿ is definitely one of her most mature and tender books to date. It¿s not a happy book, but is one that will ultimately make you grow and give you hope.My best friend died at age 12 ¿ three months away from her 13th birthday. Block, through Ariel and her search for her BFF Jeni, talks about how the vanishing or murder of someone so young stays with you. And it does. Never knowing what could have been stays with you, and while Ariel and Jeni are older than my friend who died (also from cancer) so young, the idea of youth vanishing at such an innocent age is a haunting one - I know it definitely haunted me because I identified with Ariel so strongly in that department. This book is structured as a murder mystery, but Block does it through her traditional style of magical realism. Are the new friends Ariel finds really magical? Or is she really losing her mind from the grief of losing her best friend and trying to battle it out along side her sick mother? It¿s a question that gets asked repeatedly, reminding the reader that Ariel may or may not be a reliable narrator (spoiler alert: the question is never firmly answered, but it is implied that she is a reliable narrator in the end), and that reality is all about perception. Because Ariel is perceiving things in a magical way, they are magical when happening to her.Ariel is one of the most sympathetic main characters, either in adult or in YA (and this is a book for adults), that I¿ve ever `met¿ (as much as a reader can meet a main character). She gets kicked around by life pretty hard her first year at Berkeley, and she¿s trying so hard to keep functioning each day without losing her mind or her heart, or both. As I know how that feels on the grief end of losing someone so close to you, it pulled at a few very old triggers in me, so I did have to take breaks when reading it. Ariel does not hold back from the reader as she narrates us in her journey through her mother¿s illness and her quest to find her best friend/who took her best friend. But Block once again manages to go through the ¿tough stuff¿ genre elegantly, knowing how to phrase things, and how to start knitting together a tale you can¿t put down, even if it makes you feel things that you can¿t quite immediately comprehend.The plot is easy to follow, even with the question of magical reality versus insanity planted firmly within the audience¿s mind. Block hasn¿t written this murder-mystery plot before, but I couldn¿t really find a place where she once stumbled or made me question the believability (even in the most fantastic parts of the book) of Ariel Silverman¿s tale. Every character was filled out wonderfully, every arc and sub-arc executed with skill and grace. Her sensory language in this particular book is some of the most powerful I¿ve read from her yet. I¿ve never been to Berkeley or San Francisco (though I do know LA very well), and she yet made me experience both of those places through words. This is so very hard to do, and not everyone can excel in it, but I think that writing from this place of grief really ultimately helped enh
Couldn't put the book down stayed up all night to to finish reading it.
I liked it a lot
Really enjoyed this novel. The author kept me guessing and the end was perfect for how the book had gone. It was really eerie but still awesome.
This book has a very whimsical feel that turns into a dark mystery. Reading this book I struggled with putting myself in her shoes and understand her strange thoughts. Her friend goes missing and she wants to figure out what happened yet she wants to be in this fantasy. I struggle keeping up with the authors direction of the book. It was one minute about solvong the mystery then about living. It just wasn't captive enough and the ending is lackluster and left me disappointed.