HE SAID, SHE SAID for Elemental by Antony John
Cover Story: (He Said) Earth, Wind and Water / (She Said) A Sheep Trapped in GI Joe's Clothing
Drinking Buddy: Fire+Water=Whiskey
BFF Charm: Yay!
Testosterone Level: Smoke on the Water / Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Talky Talk: (He Said) Changing Teams / (She Said) Grounded
Bonus Factors: (He Said) End of the World, I See Dead People /
(She Said) Pirates, Captain Planet, The Plague
Bromance Status: They'll Never Take Us Alive!
Relationship Status: A Wary Start To What May Be a Hot Fling
He Said: Earth, Wind and Water
What, no kissing teens? No handsome young people with their faces partly obscured? This creepy cover works, with the scary-looking sea, the lone ship, and the mysterious ruins. John has had a good record with his covers.
Incidentally, there's a whole article about this book cover over at That Cover Girl.
She Said: A Sheep Trapped in GI Joe's Clothing
Yikes. I mean, I guess this cover's cool, if, like, you're 12, and the hair hasn't yet grown in under your armpits, and your balls haven't dropped yet. I mean, my armpits are also hairless, but I don't have any balls so I feel like this cover was not aimed at me. Having read the book, I know what it's going for, and it's even right in that the aspects of the covor mirror events that happened in the book, but I just feel like there's so much . . . so much much, you know? Much. Just so much of it.
You know how Coco Chanel always said that before you leave the house, look into the mirror and take one accessory off? I feel like this book's designer should have taken Coco's advice. But then hung like twelve mirrors on the wall between where his or her shoes were stored and the door.
She Said: Brian, when you were a kid, were you ever convinced that you were somehow magical and that none of these stupid jerks could understand how cool you were? I did. I was convinced I had the power of telekinesis, something I was super grateful to be growing up to have, since laziness was my most descriptive quality, and that I just needed to harvest my power in order to use it properly and make a Yoo Hoo float from the fridge into my room. Unfortunately, it turned out I sucked at telekinesis. Just like Thomas sucks at having any sort of Element.
He Said: I can't say I ever thought I was magic. I just assumed one day I'd make friends with Doc Savage, and then everyone would be sorry they weren't nicer to me. But I think we all can relate to where Thom is coming from: that feeling of not belonging. The entire community views Thom's family as a bunch of freaks. Even some of the adults, who are supposed to protect everyone, act like belittling jerks (you hear that, Mrs. S of Progress South Elementary who made fun of my overbite in front of the whole class?). Erin, have you ever experienced an adult bully like Kyte and Lora in Element?
She Said: For SURE. Except at least our adult bullies aren't flat out lying to us! Unlike the Guardians at Hattaras Island, the small little community that Thom calls home. And when Kyte and the other Guardians force the kids to shelter in nearby Roanoke Island to ride out what young Apprentice Dennis is pretty sure is just going to be a minor storm, Thomas, his brothers, and Rose and Alice are a little confused at to just what's up. And when their only Guardian unfortunately becomes . . . indisposed, the kids are on their own. But just what secrets does Roanoke Island hold? And why does everyone seem so much more, well, more there?
He Said: And the only clue is the word CROATOAN scrawled on a tree...wait, wrong adventure. In our story, the pirates show up. Like in any good post-apocalypse book, there are bandits and pirates. But these guys have a history with the Guardians. They want sometime...or someone. In the mean time, why doesn't everyone just move to Roanoke? There's more stuff there. What's going on?
Drinking Buddy: Fire+Water=Whiskey
Thom is an everyman that I think a lot of readers can identify with. He’s not the muscle-bound hunk of a bodice ripper, but he’s not a loveable John Green nerd either. Thom is fiercely protective of his brother, who has the creepiest Element yet. He accepts his role as the town loser, and yet refuses to believe that his family deserves everyone’s derision. And what boy doesn’t understand what it’s like when girls flat out refuse to let you touch them?
BFF Charm: Yay!
At first, I wasn't so sure about Thom. I mean, I felt for him, on account of him being sort of crappy at everything, just like I am, and he certainly was mistreated by pretty much everyone, but at the same time, he kind of was a BIG OL' WHINER. But, you know, I'm a big ol' whiner too, so I can't really fault the guy for doing the same shizz I do. But even though I wasn't dead set on giving my BFF charm to Thomas, it was okay, really, because I was dead set on giving on to Alice, and since Thomas tagged along everywhere she went, I was cool with having him aboard.
But as the story progressed and I really got to know Thomas and see how brave and noble he was (not to mention, kinda hot), well, by golly, I was ready to give him his very own BFF charm! You got a friend in me, Thomas. But I totally get to be Buzz Lightyear in this scenario. You totally have to be Woody.
Testosterone Level: Smoke on the Water
Pirates? Check. Storms? Check. Millions dead of the plague? Oh, yes. Chase scene along the deserted beach? Yes. Hardy Boys-esque search for clues in the abandoned lighthouse? Of course. Boat chase? You have to ask? Lord of the Flies survivalism? Yep. Love triangle? You bet.
This book is part of a planned series, and I’m already clamoring for the sequel. On the other hand, Thom is going to have to punch out a mutant zombie on the bridge of a crashing zeppelin to top the action in this one.
Swoonworthy Scale: 5
Oh man, swoon triangle city!!! Thomas, Rose and Alice are the only people in their community the same age (and, um, three of like seven kids in the entire community? I feel like we have a serious genetic bottleneck happening here!), and they're seventeen, so you can pretty much imagine that tensions are high. And normally that would SUPER annoy me! But Antony handles it so well! Both Rose and Alice are equally kickass, and if there's going to be Team Anything, it'll probably be Team Rose and Alice Discover They Are Lesbians And Live Together With Three Cats, but Thom has super chemistry with both of them. And yet, for reasons you will discover in the book, things have to progress oh-so-deliciously-slowly between Thom and anyone he likes.
He Said: Changing Teams
In the interest of full disclosure, Antony and I are good friends in real life We are also both Missourians, both contemporary YA authors, and we both attempted to leave our comfort zone by writing an end of the world book. And that's where we diverge. Antony should be cleaning off a spot on his mantle for the awards this book will win. Mine was so incoherent it drove people to madness.
Anyone who thinks science fiction is easy to write is in for a shock when they try it themselves. I salute the author for not only attempting to write in a completely new genre, but succeeding.
She Said: Grounded
Get it? It's just like my Captain Planet joke! Oh, I'm HILARIOUS! But! I mean, OBVS I'm a huge fan of Antony's writing, and I was super excited and pleased that he kept this book so on the level. I mean, when we're talking about post-apocalyptic Plague-ridden wastelands in which Pirates can attack at will and Kids Are Our Only Hope, things could get a bit ridiculous, but Antony kept all of his humor, pathos and good sense that we've seen in his previous two books in this book. It was a great people book that just happened to be about the end of the world, you know?
Bonus Factor (He Said): End of the World
Now I know I used to fantasize about walking through the abandoned streets of a big city, last man on earth, screaming at the heavens, envying the dead. But maybe that's just me. Antony gives us a nice timeframe here: we're not so far in the future that the survivors are worshiping the remains of an old Chevy Nova, but far enough that the old ways are long forgotten. After all, what would be the point of being able to conjure fire, if matches were freely available?
Bonus Factor (He Said): I See Dead People
Griffin, Thom's scamp of a little brother, has the most adorable gift of being able to tell when someone is about to die. For some reason, this doesn't make him popular with the Guardians, and doesn't do much to get Thom's family invited to parties either.
Bonus Factor (She Said): Pirates
Pirates! Actual, honest to god Pirates! And not, like, the new kind of Pirates who just seize boring ol' oil tankers (although, it's far more likely I'd end up on an oil tanker than a private yacht, so I should probably stop calling them boring), but real pirates who sail under black flags and board other vessels and pillage and stuff. Avast, ye mateys!
Bonus Factor (She Said): Captain Planet
He's a hero! Gonna take polution to zero! While there's not really a pro-environment message in this book (uh, yet), all of the Elementals have, you know, powers of the Elements. So, for instance, Rose has the Element of Water, which means she can call Fish to her for dinner! That is SO much less boring than just sitting on a boat and getting bit by bugs while waiting for a fish to bite.
Bonus Factor (She Said): The Plague
The Plaaaaaague. Man. Aren't plagues awesome? I mean, probably not really, because all the people die and then everyone else in the house catches it and you have to burn the corpses and salt the ground and stuff but, admit it, everything I just said kind of sounded cool, didn't it? Anyway, at some point in the past, the mainland of the US was infected by a good ol' timey plague carried by rats. Doesn't that make you want to die in a French ghetto?
Kyle Gallner as Thomas
Would it be weird if I cast the Beav? At some point he has to stop being Beaver. Maybe he can start being Thom.
Bromance Status: They'll Never Take Us Alive
Thom, you and me against the world, buddy. I could see myself having adventures with Thom and his friends for quite some time, battling pirates, exploring strange abandoned cities.
Relationship Status: A Wary Start To What May Be a Hot Fling
I'll be honest, y'all. I was a little worried about how my relationship with this book was going to proceed at first. I love Antony's other books, so I was confused at my initial lukewarm reaction, but I wasn't exactly jonesing for yet another post-apocalyptic sci-fi thrill ride, ya know? And a trilogy, god, a trilogy! My kingdom for a self-contained novel! But damned if this book didn't suck me right in! And all too soon I was flying through the pages, urging Thom and his friends on to learn the truth and defeat the pirates (pirates!). And when books two and three are released? Yeah, I'm going to be first in line to read them.
FTC Full Disclosure: Erin received her free review copy from Penguin. Brian presumably received his review copy from the author. Erin received neither money nor cocktails for this review. It cannot be proven, but it has been rumored that Brian and Antony drink BEER together. Elemental is available in stores now.