Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review: The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely

Book Details:
The Elephant Mountains
By Scott Ely
Genre: Young Adult
Published 2010, Orca Book Publishers
Paperback, 203 pages
ISBN: 9781554694068

          An unprecedented series of hurricanes has swollen the Mississippi River to unheard-of levels and is threatening to put New Orleans and most of the low-lying areas of the South under water. Fifteen-year-old Stephen is spending the summer with his father near a small town north of Lake Pontchartrain when another powerful hurricane arrives and the levees on the Mississippi River completely fail. In the anarchy and chaos that results, Stephen's father is killed, and the boy is left to fend for himself. Stephen soon encounters Angela, a college student whose parents have also been killed. Navigating the labyrinth of flooded fields and towns in an airboat, the two set out in search of Stephen's mother and higher ground.
Armed with both guns and the skills his survivalist father has taught him, and repeatedly confronted by those who will kill for food, water and weapons, Stephen struggles to maintain hope and his humanity in the face of violence and desperation.
This book is set in New Orleans and the surrounding areas, which is near where I am from, so I was intrigued by the book. The post-apocalyptic story line is reminiscent of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, but on a grander scale. The language, the culture, the people -- all are true to the New Orleans area.
Right away I was struck by the simplistic nature of the writing. This is Scott Ely's first book in the Young Adult genre, which I could easily guess from what the writing lacked. One major thing that bothered me throughout the book was Ely's habit of "telling" instead of "showing." He repeatedly made statements in the book like this: "She went on to tell him that their house was close by, on high ground, and they thought they could live upstairs." (page 38) Why couldn't Ely have written this out in dialogue. This kind of writing is littered throughout the text, and it left me feeling like I had been shorted a proper book. At a little over 200 pages in length, this book was too short for my expectations. I normally love dystopia, but this one was disappointing.
The main character Stephen was a likable character, but he seemed to be both extremely lucky and a kind of talisman for death. I understand that the conditions of the area that Stephen was traveling through were extremely dangerous with very limited resources, but did just about every single person that Stephen came across have to die? That strikes me as overkill, pardon the pun.
I also did not understand the ending. If there really was as much flooding as the radio continuously announced, then Stephen would have needed to travel much further than he did to find dry ground.
I gave the book three stars because I really liked the premise of the book, though it fell short of my expectations.

The Cover: The cover is simple, but is a simple reminder of the swamps of Louisiana, with a radio in the corner to reference the radio station that Stephen often listens to in the book.

First Line: "Stephen lay on the cot on the screened porch and looked up at the stars."
I always wanted a screened porch, and just this opening line reminds me of Louisiana.

Read For: Read Your Own Books Challenge, Dystopia Challenge, TBR Pile Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge, Young Adult Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from a random draw.*


Buried In Print said...

I hadn't heard of this book, so was interested to read your response to it. Although the writing style didn't work for you, I think I would rather have the summary of those facts than have such details drawn out into dialogue. I'm curious enough to suss out a copy at my public library partly due to the gorgeous cover. (I've always wanted a screened porch too, but also an open one: best of both worlds!)

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