Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“Paradise isn’t for everyone.”
This book deserves an award! Or 5! It’s no secret that I adore Lisa King’s writing, and this book has been so easy to love. If you were given the opportunity for a fresh start, to travel to paradise, cut off from the outside world, would you take it? Once you read this, the mysteries of Blue Haven will be difficult to erase from your mind. I am so honoured to be sharing my review of one of my new favourite books of all time! If you like the sound of the book, please support the author by buying yourself a copy or by sharing this review!
About the book
Welcome to Blue Haven, the world’s most lucrative condo corporation—so exclusive that only five lucky residents live in this lush, tropical paradise, housed in a top-secret location.
Among them is twenty-five-year-old Aloe Malone, an introvert and former waitress who traded bussing tables for lengthy sleep-ins, ocean dips, Michelin-star restaurants, spectacular sunsets, and unlikely new friends—all thanks to a spurious lottery win.
That is, until Aloe discovers a journal.
Seemingly left by a past resident named Eloise whose entries are both sad and evoking, Aloe quickly suspects there’s more to Blue Haven than meets the eye.
Her suspicions are confirmed when visions arise, gruesome hallucinations she can’t understand, followed by a strange yet familiar man lurking in places he shouldn’t. Something’s wrong. Or maybe it’s all in her head. Regardless, she vows to uncover the truth.
Except someone wants to keep her quiet, and it’s the last person she ever suspected.
Blue Haven is a science-fiction thriller that explores what innovation can achieve—and destroy—despite the best intentions. King’s imaginative world building and use of moral ambiguity make this page-turning novel a thought-provoking thrill that’s impossible to put down.
Ahhh, Blue Haven. A crystal clear ocean heated to just the right temperature. Smooth grains of sand underfoot. Not an island, shoreline or boat in sight. Just space and freedom. Sounds dreamy, right? To be honest, I expected nothing less from one of my favourite authors of 2020, whose perfect description and ability to transport her readers to another life was what had me obsessed with her debut novel, Vanishing Hour. I was so curious to find out more about this beautiful sounding place… But was Blue Haven too good to be true? Was there more to this idyllic (and undisclosed) part of the world that our main character, Aloe Malone, was yet to discover? After a big lottery win, Aloe leaves her mundane life as a waitress behind and takes the plunge, desperate for a bit of luxury, the chance to meet new people as well as the option to take a dip in the ocean whenever she felt like it. As with her previous novel, the author sucks you in with an intriguing first chapter, making you keen to learn more about the characters and the setting. *chef’s kiss*
After reading the book’s synopsis, there was nothing I craved more than a bit of a twist in events and something out of the ordinary, and it seemed like I’d definitely get what I wanted here! But before all that, I simply loved getting to know more about Aloe and her life, what she’s left behind and what she needs from Blue Haven. The pacing was perfect, and I loved joining this character as she explored everything her new home had to offer and just how convenient and perfect everything seemed. I’ve been so desperate for a holiday of my own, yet reading these chapters seemed to satisfy that craving! It was nice to close my eyes after a good chunk of incredible description and imagine the sounds of the ocean, the soft breeze and the warmth of the sun. I loved every sentence! However, just as things seem to be going so well, there are instances which made me (and Aloe) think twice, things which seem odd and things which spark panic. I loved this sense of mystery, and it definitely made me curious to find out more. What secret was Blue Haven hiding?
“The five of them had each other, but no one else. That was oddly coincidental, wasn’t it?”
Aloe begins to meet the other small selection of residents at Blue Haven, and each of these new characters had such brilliantly created personalities. It was easy to imagine what these characters were like, how they looked and acted, and it was nice to imagine the sort of relationship Aloe would have with each of them going forward. They were all so memorable in their own ways, something that really stuck with me. Their experiences together seemed so fun, each of them welcomed Aloe into their circle and seemed such nice people to be around. Could this place really get any better?! Aside from the story, I really liked the chapter lengths and how each scene or two was limited to a single chapter. It was easy to take breaks whenever I needed, but it’s not like I wanted to very often with how much I was enjoying the story! Just as Aloe reaches peak enjoyment and bliss at Blue Haven with her new found friends, she finds a journal belonging to someone named Eloise, someone she didn’t know and someone she was certain didn’t live in Blue Haven…
The contents of Eloise’s journal coated this picture perfect story of paradise with a thin layer of darkness – what had caused Eloise to share her thoughts and feelings in her journal and what did Blue Haven have to do with it all? Each chapter from this point onwards ended with sweet little cliff hangers or questions to ponder which pulled me straight into the next chapter. I’m happy to say I binged this book up to now, and I knew I’d continue to do so! I loved reading snippets from Eloise’s journal, each one of them chilling and somewhat unsettling, and I found some strange joy in learning about this troubled character we’d not yet met. It wasn’t only the journal that was causing Aloe some stress and anxiety here; things start to happen that you simply wouldn’t expect in such a perfect place. There’s a stranger staring at her on the beach, who also appears suddenly as she’s shopping, someone who definitely doesn’t live or work in Blue Haven. Who was this guy? Should she be worried?
As we reach one specific journal entry from Eloise, a few things begin to slot into place and we get a tiny bit closer to understanding who this mystery man really is. (There are also mentions of suicide here to be aware of.) All the information we get from these entries gives us a clearer picture of who Eloise was, why she was so depressed and we also get a small insight into why she didn’t feel safe in Blue Haven. But there were also so many questions left unanswered that made this mystery even bigger, even more addictive! I loved the direction the author was taking, and the light, idyllic feeling of Blue Haven combined with the darkness of Eloise’s journal and Aloe’s feelings about it created such a unique feel and atmosphere. It was around this point where the thriller elements really kicked in, and oh my god were they good! This changed the feel of the book completely, each chapter radiating surprise and excitement. Is there anything this author can’t do?! I wanted to warn Aloe to watch her back, and I was definitely on the look out for anything else out of the ordinary…
After a deep discussion with Doctor Marks, Aloe gets some real answers about Eloise. But who could she really trust to tell her the truth? Things get weirder and more unusual the deeper we get into the pages in this book – and I was all for it! Aloe begins to have strange hallucinations; she sees blood, gore and rot, occasionally at first, but eventually it gets more frequent and more difficult to deal with. The cause of these hallucinations was unknown, a complete mystery. But surely they had something to do with Eloise. How could they not?! I’ve certainly had a few surprises so far, so I just knew the author would throw in more twists and turns to make this story even more unusual and gripping. I really felt for Aloe here and her experiences must be absolutely terrifying to go through. I’ve no idea how I’d react to something like this! So many genres roll into something fresh and new, something I adored with each passing chapter. Each of these chapters became filled with suspense, something that must have been difficult to keep consistent, but it was absolutely flawless.
“Palm trees swayed like onlookers, staring at her with suspicious and curious peepers, inviting an unwelcomed self-awareness.”
I could really sense that Aloe felt claustrophobic in Blue Haven at this point, the contrast between how she felt when she arrived to how she felt a week later was very worrying – she needed to leave. Every emotion Aloe feels is passed onto the reader in such a strong way, the words from the author really getting into my mind and making me feel those feelings completely. It was such an amazing thing to experience. There seemed to be a slight change in how the author writes Aloe’s story here – I felt a sense of urgency and suffering, and I started reading each chapter faster and faster (without realising it at first!) The author answers so many of the questions I had in one particular chapter which was incredibly satisfying, and threw more twists my way which then created even MORE questions! There is a certain chapter which turns Aloe’s entire experience on its head – something so shocking and unexpected, the twist of all twists! What does this mean for Aloe? What came next after learning such a harsh truth? The sci-fi elements shine through and create something really extraordinary.
After a brief break from reading to set all these new found facts straight in my head, we’re taken back in time to two months earlier, a crucially important time in the book where we really make sense of everything we’ve read so far. The detail and just how carefully the book had been crafted just blew me away, and each new detail we learn felt like an extra jigsaw piece had been slotted perfectly into the puzzle. It’s genuinely a work of art and I loved every word. As we’re brought back to the present day, Aloe has a new mission and so much to mull over. Not giving anything away here is SUPER difficult, but what I will say is that you will be very pleasantly surprised by the author’s direction. We see difficult decisions being made about the future, some absolutely mind-blowing technology and processes being used for such an important cause, as well as a completely different side to a character I loved from the start. I was so excited to see how the author ended this story, and just how much more we get to learn about Blue Haven… MORE👏 SCI-FI👏 PLEASE👏
Aloe’s time in Blue Haven towards the end of the book felt very different, for reasons that will become clear when you read. I hoped that this time, everything would be as she wanted and needed it to be for her own sanity, her own wellbeing. We learn a lot more about the residents of Blue Haven that Aloe befriended, going quite deep into their pasts and everything they’ve experienced that led them to this place. Their reasons for living in Blue Haven were far from anything I expected, and really were quite shocking and saddening in so many ways. The discussion scenes between some familiar characters were truly excellent and I was able to gather the answers to a few more questions I had here! The way the author began to tie up those loose ends felt very satisfying, and it seems she just knows what readers want to read. The closer we got to the end, the more I wanted to shout about how GOOD it was from the rooftops! There was simply nothing to fault. Books like this are so rare to find!
The extent to which the author talks about and describes character feelings is exceptional, especially how she covers grief and mental wellbeing. In fact, I don’t think I’ve felt this involved or felt so deep inside a character’s mind for such a long time, and I already know that I will be comparing everything else I read this year to this book. It’s set the bar incredibly high. We explore relationships and the past traumas of our main character, and some of this helps us to understand why and how she feels the way she does. The words were so powerful at times that I felt my eyes tear up a little – something I did not expect at the start of the book! There was one thing Aloe truly wanted right now, and it seemed that in order to get it, she’d have to risk losing something just as important. I could not wait for the ending and whether my theories were correct or completely off the mark. Would we get another huge twist?!
“There was no form of happiness as strong, pervasive, and overpowering as the notes of grief in her heart.”
Secrets, fear and overwhelming emotion played a huge part in those final chapters and I genuinely could not pull myself away. It made me think about the huge contrast between the beginning of the book and the end, and I found myself thinking about life in such depth – what is important, how important it is to look after your yourself and to keep positive memories close. I began questioning characters I had no issues with at the start and I attempted to think outside the box to solve one of the biggest mysteries in the book. It was such an enjoyable experience, one that I know will stick with me for some time. (There are mentions of alcohol/drug abuse here, but only minor.) I kept thinking about how much of a rollercoaster this book has been, how much has been covered and how the suspense and thrill has been incredibly high for most of the book. And we STILL had the finale to come. I knew Lisa would not let me down!
When I finally read those ending scenes and that final chapter, I CRIED. Not just because of what goes down (and oh my GOD does it go down!) but just because of how much of a masterpiece the whole book has been. I’m so goddamn proud of you, Lisa! The whole ending is highly satisfying; everything seems to slot into place as it should and I wouldn’t change a thing if I’d written this myself. There are fresh starts, a new kind of happiness, but also the letting go of things that really tug at your heartstrings. The way the author portrays mental health in its darkest moments is completely absorbing, and it really makes you think about so much in your life. I am honestly blown away by the quality and the effect this book has had on me. Can I read it again now?! I would definitely be up for a Blue Haven sequel, but at the same time, I feel like Aloe’s journey has been written so perfectly that it should be left alone. Either way, I’m so excited to see what comes next for this author!
A twisty page turner that you simply won’t be able to stop thinking about. It’s bursting at the seams with suspense, it’s surprisingly deep, and it completely took over my brain space for a good few weeks! I loved the balance of the joyful elements and the hidden darkness underneath it all, and it’s immediately clear just how much work went into creating this unforgettable book. It’s incredibly thought provoking, especially the exploration of mental health and its damaging effects, and the scary yet fascinating things technology COULD achieve one day is written so so well. I can’t fault a single part of it.
I don’t think anything I ever write will come close to expressing my love for this book but the satisfying plot, the unbelievably perfect selection of characters, and the unexpected twists and turns have made this one of the best books I’ve ever read. I NEED TO CRY. AGAIN.
A HUGE thank you to the wonderful Lisa King for another jaw-droppingly good story! You can purchase your own copy of Blue Haven over on Amazon, available on Kindle and hardback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram for more updates!
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