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Book Review: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block

The elementals by Francesca Lia Block

I’ve been reading FLB for probably 2/3 of my life now, and the magic is still there. She can still wrap a poem around anything, and the magical realism is still abundant and shimmery. There aren’t really lines between dreams and reality in her recent writing, and maybe that’s kind of the point.

So, Ariel’s super-close best friend disappeared a year ago on a class trip to Berkeley (she lives in LA). Ariel’s mother has just been diagnosed with breast cancer. She is out-of-place and awkward. It’s time to head off to college at Berkeley (where she was supposed to go with her missing best friend).

Distraught, Ariel starts looking for her missing friend when she arrives in Berkeley. She passes out flyers, asks around, gets ridiculed for her persistence. She’s breaking down, on the edge of crazy, unable to find peace in the present because of this. She meets a trio of older people, grad students who have a large house off campus. They suck her in, and she is intoxicated with them and the magic, but still floundering. Additionally, there are other surrounding characters who engage in both terrorizing and trying to save her.

When reading this book it’s hard to determine between metaphor and actuality, and that might be the point because it’s pretty much about where she’s at mentally– furthermore, there’s a constant current of magic and drugs and memory which is both destabilizing and essential. If you take this book literally, you’re going to have a problem. If you just let it wash over you, things will be better.

My one problem (and it might be cruel to place it at this part of the review): The Ending. I don’t know whether the author wanted it or the publisher wanted it or maybe there just wasn’t time to write something better. Maybe just skip the last chapter or two. They’re not terribly necessary.

Find a copy here


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