Saturday, November 17, 2012
HERE'S THE TRUTH
1. It's Not a Young Adult Book.
Although the story is a coming-of-age one with a seventeen year old protagonist, THE ELEMENTALS is not published for teens but by St. Martin's Press for adults. Teens will probably be interested in it but there are some key differences between this and some of my other work.
Actually, a few of my "teen" novels were actually written for adults as well (THE HANGED MAN for example).
Many of my favorite adult novels feature adult protagonists (Karen Russell's SWAMPLANDIA, Alice Sebold's THE LOVELY BONES, Russell Banks' THE RULE OF THE BONE, Joy Nicholson's TRIBES OF PALOS VERDES etc etc).
The dark themes, erotic passages and twisted ending (see below) make THE ELEMENTALS a book primarily for older readers.
2. It's Not my First Adult Book
In addition to books like THE HANGED MAN, which was published as YA, I've had a number of books published as "adult" including NECKLACE OF KISSES, RUBY (with Carmen Staton), GUARDING THE MOON, NYMPH, QUAKELAND, and WOOD NYMPH SEEKS CENTAUR.
3. It's Not my First Attempt at Erotica
Any of you who've read NYMPH (see above) know this isn't true and that I've been writing sexy stuff since way before E.L. James.
4. It's Not Just for Girls
I've been pleased to receive praise from men in their twenties, thirties forties and fifties for this book. Check out writerscast HERE.
5. It Doesn't Have a Happy Ending
Without giving anything away, the ending of this book is not supposed to be happy, although some people have interpreted it that way (I intended the ambiguity). This is one reason THE ELEMENTALS isn't YA I suppose, although WASTELAND has a tragic ending and WAS published as YA. In THE ELEMENTALS Ariel seems to get what she wants but does she? Is it real? Is she losing her sanity? Is the world of the imagination a safe place to live?
Read and Find Out
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Thursday, November 1, 2012
Review: The Elementals by Francesca Lia Block
There are those who make magic and those who are magical. Francesca Lia Block is both. A weaver of words, her shimmering prose wraps the reader in an enchanted cloak, embroidered with dreams. Through her eyes, cities offer a fleeting glimpse of the magic secretly pulsing through their veins beneath the skin of mini malls and suburban mazes. Block’s books are sensual delights. Reading them, I smell the tang of salt water, savor the delicious heat of Mexican food, feel the papery blossoms of Bougainvillea between fingertips, visually caress dusty cactus-lined canyons, and sense Otherworldly creatures flitting on the periphery. She returns me to the Los Angeles of my youth. As in any timeless tale, Block anchors fantasy elements with life’s darker truths. Her characters face eating disorders, addiction, sexual identity, or depression. They struggle with loss and recovery. Loneliness and self-doubt eat away at them. They ache to find love and acceptance. Her protagonists are strikingly real in their challenges, even more believable in the gradual revelation of their inner strength. I have loved Block’s work since I discovered a signed copy of Dangerous Angels, the collected Weetzie Bat novellas, at my local bookstore. Each of her books I read in a trance, devouring yet fearing its end, until I emerge from its spell, inspired and redeemed.
The Elementals, Block’s newest novel does not disappoint. Although known for her Young Adult books, this work is bolder in its undercurrent of sexuality and more graphic in its descriptions of sex. Thus, it is marketed as a novel for adults. However the narrator, Ariel’s, coming of age story will appeal to adults and older teen readers alike.
The story opens with the disappearance of Ariel’s best friend, Jeni, while on a college trip to UC Berkeley. This mystery weaves its dark thread throughout. A traditional college experience is turned on its head as Ariel searches for clues. Her mother is also fighting breast cancer. Instead of drawing closer, they push each other away. Lonely Ariel is pulled into the enchanted world of three enigmatic strangers- John, Tania, and Perry- living in their enticing home on the hill. As she becomes increasingly entangled in the fairy tale existence of her new friends, she grows detached from the more painful realities in her life. Block’s protagonist is alternately driven to find answers or to seek the various forms of oblivion offered her. A steamy romance with the intriguing and handsome John becomes addictive.
The narrative references the legend of Tam Lin and Fair Janet without becoming derivative. Will Ariel chose to remain in Fairyland? Is John the enchanted knight held captive? Is it Ariel? Or perhaps, it is them both. The Elementals successfully utilizes the mythos of shape-changing lover and human-stealing fairies in new ways. Block’s skillful writing transforms them into metaphors which satisfy and propel the story forward to its compelling conclusion.
I return to Block’s novels because, despite the magical elements, she does not sugar-coat. Her portrait of a woman battling breast cancer is heart wrenchingly real. Many times, my face was wet with tears. Not only was I caught up in Ariel’s mother’s experience, I relived the pain of watching my father battle cancer. Yet, there is true catharsis in this part of the story. At its end, I found that my grief had subtly changed. I felt stronger and the ache, while still there, hurt less. A good book opens worlds. An excellent one opens a reader. The Elementals is as much about transformation as it is transformative.