From School Library Journal
Gr 6-10-When plague hit the mainland United States, a few people managed to escape to the Outer Banks. Now, 16-year-old Thomas is the only person on Hatteras Island without an Element, the supernatural ability to manipulate air, fire, earth, or water. When pirates kidnap the adults and attempt to take the island for their own, Thomas; his deaf younger brother; his best friend, Alice; his would-be girlfriend, Rose; and Rose's little brother hide out on Roanoke Island, where an abandoned community has been reduced to rubble in the wake of the plague and treacherous storms. As they defend themselves against desperate pirates, the teens slowly discover that their Guardians have been hiding secrets-particularly about Thomas-that could cost all of them their lives. A confusing start makes way for plenty of action for readers who enjoy survival stories with a twist of the supernatural and a hint of romance. Thomas and Alice are the focal characters as both are instrumental in defending the island. The eerie setting, with its skeletal buildings and mysterious past, is practically a character in itself. The mystery builds so slowly that some readers might abandon Elemental before the action really kicks in. For that reason, it is best recommended to patient readers who, like the characters, will fight for answers that don't come easily.-Leigh Collazo, Ed Willkie Middle School, Fort Worth, TXα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
At 16, Thomas is used to being the first of his kind born without an elemental power—earth, water, wind, or fire—but that doesn’t make his life any easier. Thom’s world is one decimated by plague and now fractured into bands of people still terrified of becoming ill. Thom has become an object of derision to the powerful residents of his tiny Outer Banks home, with the exception of his closest friends, Rose and Alice. Everything changes abruptly one day when a fearsome storm hits and pirates abduct all the Guardians, leaving the younger people to rely upon their own limited knowledge to survive in a harsh landscape. Muddled during the first several chapters, the plot and mysteries slowly untangle throughout the narrative as the pace picks up. A tendency toward melodrama on Thom’s part may frustrate older readers, although younger ones may empathize with his seemingly rebellious attitudes. The uncommon first-person male point of view, rare in the wildly popular dystopian subgenre, should appeal to boys in particular, although female genre fans will also likely pick it up. Grades 7-10. --Julie Trevelyan