"ELEVATED," by Elana Johnson, e-book $4.99, 266 pages (f) (ages 16 and up)
Utah author Elana Johnson is no stranger to young adult dystopian novels, but "Elevated" is her debut title in the contemporary genre. In "Elevated," Johnson not only brings the characters to life, appeals to the reader emotionally and addresses some tough issues, but also does it all in verse — a first for Johnson.
After five months apart, exes Elly and Travis find themselves stuck in an elevator during a power outage. Through flashbacks and present-time conversations, Johnson tells a story about these two teens, the tangled web of heartbreak they have weaved and what acts of courage will be necessary to break free.
Johnson's characters are full of impulse, angst and indecision. Their thoughts are true teen thoughts, as are their actions. Elly is endearing in her imperfections, from the secret she hints at to the way she uses childhood games to make decisions. Travis is the boy who needs saving, one who makes bad decisions but in the most forgivable way.
Every word Johnson writes carries an emotional heft that lifts readers up to the highest happiness and then sends them crashing down to the depths of despair. Johnson appeals to so many emotions, each done as well as the last, including love, abandonment, trust and betrayal.
Although a quick read, "Elevated" is not a light read. The novel addresses tough issues such as military deployment, death, drug abuse and teen pregnancy, but Johnson doesn't preach or chastise. The language is clean and there aren't any sex scenes. All of these issues just exist, and readers can decide how they feel about them.
Because the novel is written in verse, a type of narrative poetry, Johnson chooses every word carefully. It is easy to flow from the first word to the last without ever putting down the book. Johnson shows outstanding talent in this form, and her words are beautiful, important and deeply felt.
It's currently available only as an e-book.