Title: Blue Aspen
Author: Tenaya Jayne
Page Count: 250 pages
Genre: paranormal, thriller, psychological fiction
Copy for review provided by the author in exchange for an honest review
50 words or less: Some things are real and some things aren't, but what if you got to choose between the two? Dulcee confronts just that dilemma when she meets Vincent. What if "taking the plunge" isn't just a nice phrase?
I can say with 100% certainty that Blue Aspen is unlike anything I have read before. The story is unique; the characters are simultaneously fleshed out and mysterious; the solution to the puzzle at the end of the story is not one I saw coming.
There is a lot going on this book and it takes a little while to unpack and digest everything, so please bear with me if I board the bullet train to Tangentville.
Dulcee Elders has basically experienced one life catastrophe after another, and until she went live with her Uncle Jack, life was not all that exciting for fulfilling for her. After arriving at Uncle Jack's, however, seventeen years of misery screech to a halt as Dulcee is suddently confronted with what to her had to have been a paradise; a relative who cared about her (maybe even loved her in his own way,) a house with nooks and crannies and luxuries beyond compare, clothes, gifts, and the free time to basically do whatever she wanted.
It's not long, however, before all of these things seem superficial to Dulcee and her heart starts to long for what she really wants in life; a companion, a lover who understands her, and someone who loves only her. She wants to be someone's Joey Ramone, not their obligation or poor relative or bad life decision or burden. She wants to be loved unconditionally.
Enter Vincent Sands. He epitomizes everything that Dulcee wants; loving, giving, gorgeous, completely devoted. The trouble is, he's not a normal guy who just came up and knocked on the door one day. Instead, he only comes to her in her dreams; naturally, Dulcee wants to dream as much as possible to spend as much time with Vincent as possible.
This is where the problems start; a wise man (Albus Dumbledore) once said, "it does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live," and that thought kept running through my head as I observed Dulcee's descent into madness (or something.) Life is good for Dulcee and Vincent until reality (her uncle coming home from a long trip) sets in. From there, Dulcee does indeed have trouble maintaining her grip on reality; but then, why would she want to grip reality when her dream world is so much better?
The question posed by the book is this: how far would you go to be happy? If you tasted paradise, what would you do to keep it? For Dulcee, the answers to these questions come easily; after years of quiet desperation, moving on to something unknown doesn't seem like such a sacrifice to her. Other people around her are not quite so willing to accept this, though, and Dulcee finds herself in quite a predicament as a result of that.
Easily my favorite thing about this book is the setting, particularly in the descriptions of the house and of Dulcee's dream world. At first I was confused, trying to keep everything straight, but then I realized, the house could be imagined any way I wanted; take a grand mansion and make it grander, take a paradise and make it richer. Same with the dream world. Think of the most beautiful place, and then make it....better. The descriptions of the setting are unique because they really facilitate the reader filling in the gaps with imagination, as opposed to lots and lots of weighty description. The worldbuilding was very minimal but it worked, which is not something I say very often.
If I have one complaint about the book, it's that there are some plot elements that are never really resolved. What's up with Dulcee's mom? Does she ever come back (even for nefarious reasons?) What about Uncle Jack? What happened with him? Why does Dr. Phelps owe him a favor? What's the significance of the friendship between those two men? What happened with Vivian? Did that ever get resolved? Admittedly, these elements are not critical to the overall story but I would definitely have been interested in knowing how they ended up.
Besides that, Blue Aspen is a book that is unlike anything else. It's simultaneously gothic and romantic, beautiful and grotesque, and makes you think about relationships and human beings in alternatingly flattering and unflattering ways. I fully admit I will probably have to revisit this book in the future; it's the kind of book you could read a hundred times and interpret differently every time.
Overall Grade: A-
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