Elemental - Antony John
I won a copy through Adventures in YA & Children's Publishing.

I was all over the place with this one. There were some very successful things, some just successful, some so-so and some that just didn't work for me. It's all jumbled up with things I wish were included, somethings I wish weren't included and things I can’t be sure about.

While I prefer the the character driven novel,but simply liking the main character and going for a roller coaster ride still works for me. Those books for are usually not great, but good personally. Elemental is one of those books. Elemental wasn’t character driven, but I still feel like I would’ve, could’ve, should’ve like it better, had some elements turned out differently. I hoped for more and it felt just out of reach, which is just so frustrating.

In the end, I will say that it was a fast paced, action oriented enjoyable read, depending on what your preferences are. Not a recommend to everyone for reading book. It worked as the first book in a trilogy as a set up, a draw in and a story that feels complete holding its own. There’s no real cliff hanger but an open ending. I will be reading the next book for sure to find out what happens next but it’s not a burning need to read it.I’m looking forward to it though and I’m hoping the next book recovers, strengthens, and clarifies to meets the high expectations I had for the first book. It’s good but there were a lot of thing to talk about for me regarding this book. Most everything specific is a spoiler though, so that will be far down below behind spoiler tags.

Loved the concept, the cover, the premise, and the world. The characters were okay, only fell in love with two (and neither was the main character). There were some issues there and it was hard to connect/become attached to almost all of them. The pacing was fast and good but considering my other issues, I wish there was more of slowed down beginning. Maybe a foreword to set up what the colony and its people were like under normal/non-dramatic circumstances. I think that would've helped alleviate some problems, and form a better connection instead of instantly putting the book in constant action and upheaval. The beginning was hard to keep everyone and everything straight. I wish there was a reference in the back to help with this. I know there’s the saying about not introducing a lot of characters in the start of the book and skipping to the move might have been to attempt to alleviate some confusion by narrowing the focus but really it didn’t help me much. The large cast is going to grow as we meet the rest of the guardians in the next book. It’s just hard to get a handle on who these characters are, their relationships, their dynamics and what their baseline is, when we get told things about them in the beginning and the rest of the book is spent changing everything. It felt so topsy-turvy. There really is a lot going on here, and it maybe just too much to push into one book.

As for the writing, it was all fine and good. It just felt like it was telling not showing a lot. Though when I went flipping back, I couldn’t pinpoint anything. Maybe it was just not being connected or just having so much shoved at me in a short period. It’s action oriented so there’s the movie style factor, which I kept picturing as in the Pirates of the Caribbean. Though the only similarities are the pirates and ships.

More Swiss Family Robinson than a dystopian feel for me. The only time it really felt like a dystopian is when Thom was trying to figure out everyday things from 'the before'. (Of course, not necessarily dystopian, aliens would have the same reaction.) The Plague talk is certainly dystopian but really it didn't land. Hearing about what happened should've packed a punch, but instead I felt like a neutral observer to another planet's problems. (Maybe I’m the alien here.) I think that comes from the kid's own lack of really grasping how far widespread and devastating this event was. I think (hope) this will be amped up with the next book, since this is the set up. Especially due to the ending, with it's reveal and subsequent questions, is so very dystopian. Otherwise, it was a paranormal magical powers group of people stranded on a island. Which isn't a bad thing, just not what I was expecting.

More Specifically: ***Spoilers Below That Could Ruin Everything For You******
So, seriously, you’ve read the book or don’t plan on reading it? Okay, then. Otherwise, don’t click below.
Keep in mind, it’s easier to talk in depth about negatives, than positives. I still liked Elemental and am not necessarily trying to scare you, just express and explain.
Fine, here it is.

Rose: Mostly defined as quite, meek and shy. And by Thom’s attraction to her, which seems so superficial. He keeps saying "She's SO Pretty! She’s always pretty! Look at her hair and her skin and her face." I wanted to start calling her Pretty Polly Pockets, afterall they are both pretty blondes and need someone to move them. The personality is where?

Oh, she's apparently really nice but I don't know about all that. I’ve been told that countless times but have yet to see it. She's mumbled about "my father shouldn't say those mean things..." and "you're special too..." but what about actually about being NICE? She helps who she likes, when she wants but I don’t see her jumping to save Alice or being nice to Griffin. She decides to become her own person later in the book but it was so little, so late it didn’t really have an impact on me. She isn’t really active or payed much attention to, except for being leered at by Thom in the first part as well, so that’s a factor. Hopefully in the next book she’ll make more of an impression.

Alice: My favorite. She felt like a full character. I like her rebellious, spitfire personality. I like how active she is and her strenght. I get her. I understand her, where she’s coming from, her motivations, and her reasoning. There’s a really great moment at the fire where she stands up for and calls out Thom. It really showed who she was and how she felt. Of course, Thom’s like "I didn't think [...]had anything to do with caring about me." Stupid, stupid Thom. And he’s supposedly observant? *snort*

Thom: I mean I like Thom (generally, usually) and get him, I just wasn't really attached to him in anyway. He's very wobbly, like a baby calf standing up and walking after being born. I’m sure he’ll get it eventually, just not really a fan of his in this book. Then there’s the pathetic excuse of a love triangle and the 50 pages where I wanted to smack him out of frustration. Which was my only real reaction to Thom due to whining for 50 pages about never again being touched or loved, when he could have just realized, “I’ll ask my dad! He obviously touched, loved and had sex with mom, so it’s not hopeless!” This was after all, after realizing the gaurdians were still alive. Even if Thom's dad was dead or is going to die, Thom could’ve showed some gusto by becoming determined to figure it out and standing up for himself. Instead of continuing the pattern of self-hate and self-pity.

Griffin: My other favorite. He feels solid and compelling. I liked him so much. There were so many moments and actions that showed really who he was: strong, compassionate, talented and smart.

I don’t know if I just liked him, or removing the ability of using often long sentences made the author show, more than tell Griffin. Maybe it was that he and Alice were different and stood out while Thom and Rose were bland. Maybe it was that Alice and Griffin struggled and overcame, while Thom and Rose wallowed or did nothing. Whatever it was, it worked so well for Griffin and Alice, not so much for Thom and Rose.

The Love Triangle:
I get why there’s a love triangle seeing as how they are a small isolated community. There’s really no other option. However, it doesn’t really work here for me. Usually there’s a compelling reason for the attraction that’s explained and shown. I get why Alice likes Thom, and I get that Thom thinks Rose is the prettiest girl ever. However, I don’t get why Rose is into Thom besides being pushed together and not having another option. Rose didn’t really show up til the later half of the book and I was glad for that, though I was miffed at Thom’s dislike of her “change”. She started showing who she was instead of submitting to everything and being a wet blanket. In the beginning, she was just convenient floral decoration. I get why someone would be attracted to Thom in general, but not specifically Rose. Why does she like him? Because he’s off limits? I don’t get it. Then Thom was really weak towards Alice. He was friendly, because they were friends, but the only ‘more’ thing came when she was willing to touch him simply because she was willing to touch him. Then he spends the rest of the time drooling over how Rose looks.

I don’t know it all just seemed really weaksauce. It makes me wish Rose was actually the nice, caring person she’s portrayed as (she’s like this just for her brother and Thom apparently) and realizing Griffin is a person too. He can communicate and contribute but he’s written off and it’s frustrating. Alice and Griffin were my two favorites yet no one else seems to get it. A Rose and Griffin couple and a Thom and Alice couple seems far more interesting a development. Since hey, if the seer mom could be with someone, why can’t Griffin? It would mean not just more developing romantic relationships but throw a stick into the guardians design and cause more than just 'brotherly love all the time' since Thom has an attraction to Rose's looks but she'd wind up with Griffin instead. Character development, growth, and conflict all by changing up the love coupling. It would also mean Rose is actually nice, willing to stick up for someone who needs it, defies the colony and does does the right thing by not being a judgemental jerk. Thom would start sticking up for himself and I see more compatibility between those two anyways. Thom has anger but suppresses it and turns it inwards, where Alice turns it towards those that cause it. Griffin is the kind and gentle yet ‘don’t mess with my family’ type that seems to flow more with Rose’s shy, quiet type. Of course, Griffin with Alice and Thom with Rose could work as well, though I think it’ll take more work. Instead there’s this wobbly, weak, forced, stereotypical in every-YA- book- around -now (and I’m sick of this) love triangle.

This was the least attractive, most annoying and disappointing aspect of the book for me. I can deal with just enjoying the ride and not getting attached to most of the characters. I can deal with the struggle in the beginning. I can deal with relationships not working out how I planned and terrible people I’m suppose to like. What I had a hard time dealing with here is such a poor showing in an overused trope in a book I had such high hopes for before diving in.

Other Random Things with My Reaction and Reasoning:

*happy* Nice job with the control the element energy with your heartbeat. It explains how his mom even could survive being pregnant with an energy elemental. I actually am really excited to have Thom start learning and exploring his element.

*mixed emotions* Who else is in the merry colony? Thom mentions 15 people and there’s vague mentions of the other guardians but that’s it. There’s 15 confirmed in the beginning and two dies. We only meet one, who doesn’t last long and wasn’t pleasant. Their death was just a clue, convenient movement and drama. No need to grieve or feel anything, it’s not like any of the characters did. Then there’s the second death, who we don’t meet until after finding their body and get treated to two sentences about them, which is then used for clarification about how the kids are reacting to it. It wasn’t impacting at all. I didn’t feel it. I didn’t care. It liked one of the attacking pirates dying - okay then, better them than someone important but whatever. It, again, was used as movement of plot and drama, very much like the first death.

I get what movement was needed and what it accomplished, it just felt really weak element to the story; just more blah events meant for the bigger picture that’s underwhelming. I counted all the characters I know, and there’s still 4 unnamed/unknown characters, the majority of the guardians. We’ve only meet two guardians and only the kids are evacuated so they have to be guardians. These are the people I’m suppose to be so worried about getting back. Yeah...about that...I only cared about getting them back because the kids needed the adults. If those 4 had washed up dead, I doubt there’d be any emotional response from me for them either. Hard to care when there’s no connection or reason for it.

*left out information* There's at least one couple of parents (who? no clue but there’s a vague reference to a mother eventually) yet still the youngest child is 9? Are they using contraceptives? Too old? (I have no idea how old they even are.) Not having sex? What is this colonies daily life even like? What’s on this island? I don’t get it.

*worried* If King Pirate Dare is one of them wouldn't he KNOW that there's a chance Thom is a seer or an energy elemental? With a seer mother and an fire/energy elemental dad, WTF else is Thom suppose to be? And Thom was three when the pirate there last so...if he didn't check the element of Thom then he was stooooopid because it shows up in kids. Young kids, every kid so far is described as showing at 3 or 4 at least. Everyone else clearly knew from the very get go, so why didn’t Dare? Sure, there’s no clear explanation of what happened the first time he raided but still, Dare is stupid for not being open to the possibility of it happening. Considering what we are suppose to believe this guy did, it’s hard to buy this oversight. Did the others lie to Dare? Tell him Thom is a fire elemental? And Dare believed them, even after using the lantern and not setting fire to the ropes to drown the pirates? After the lantern thing, what did he think Thom’s element was?

*confused* What did they feed the brand spanking new infant Griffin when the mother "drowned" the day after he was born? There aren't any kids described as his age, the nearest being 2 years apart so how likely is it that someone was breastfeeding and willing to do it for him? This little colony doesn't look at all close from what I read, so I don’t see it happening. With older kids they couldn’t have used left over baby formula (though I doubt it’d still be good after all this time anyways.) There’s no talk of animals besides wild horses on the island for milk. Or is this what Thom’s dad was blackmailed with to make that terrible promise to hide their energy element? Did Thom’s dad keep him alive by giving him energy? Would that even work for a growing infant? Hmmmmm.....

*confused and worried* I mean there's the "secondary" power but what does that mean? Is the author going to pull some Captain Planet bull with the "Element of Strength" and "Element of Heart"? Or is it just pumped up generic super human side stuff? This is one question that will be in the next book but am worried how it could go.