In the opening pages of the book we slither right into an argument between Alena and her kind-of girlfriend Josephine. Josephine’s pissed off because Alena is taking a liking to a boy at school. It’s crushing for Josephine, who climbs atop the guard railing of a bridge, suicide a threat tossed in Alena’s face. One year later and we learn that Josephine indeed died that day on the bridge. But if that’s the case, why is she still hanging with Alena like inseparable besties, and what designs does her ghoulish mind have in store for Alena?
I can’t give you too much else, as we’re entering major spoiler territory beyond the first chapter. But that first chapter works as a stellar launch point for something gruesome and often intricate while somehow still inserting an atypical ability to keep readers reminded that in a sense, this is a coming of age tale.
I will reassure you that the book is both emotionally taxing and extremely bloody. Bullying is a strong theme of the story, just as delusion and low self-esteem are. Alena really is a book for the youth, despite its extremely dark vibe. But that’s how love stories tend to be – at least the love stories that don’t end in picturesque fashion.
When all is stripped away, Alena stands as a dark and depressing love story that’s more likely to leave you feeling somber and empty. While those feelings can be terrible to deal with, Kim W. Andersson’s tale is designed to invoke those very human responses, and the book succeeds in doing so. This is grim and gorgeous, uplifting and emotionally draining. It’s an amalgamation of emotions that culminates in fits of jealous rage and thick crimson blood, drenching pivotal pages of a future classic.