“Why then did she feel so old, aged beyond her tender years; and just what did innocent and tender years constitute? Devin's fingers came up, touching her parted lips. Her mouth breathed as she whispered into the cold, empty air. 'The hunt..'” This is the reflection of Devin, the main character of Elicia Clegg's novel Vexation. The story delivers all that this ominous statement promises. Devin, months earlier, was kidnapped in front of her high school at the tender age of fifteen and forced to commit heinous crime in games created by her captor, referred to as Grandfather, to write his books. Eventually Devin escapes, but with only a limited grasp on reality, unable to mentally escape Grandfather's mental control. It is exactly this mental instability which Clegg uses to effectively disorientate her readers, causing them to constantly question whether these flashbacks are real memories or simply the sick imaginings of a disturbed young girl. It doesn't help Devin's mental state that those at home are hiding much as well. Her best friends (Melissa, Jen, Rachel, and Stephanie) turn on her for the sake of popularity in a way that sets off a mental breakdown in Devin. Devin's relationship with her parents is not much better. She constantly questions their love for her after she returns. After a while Devin's continued fear of Grandfather's ability to hurt her family causes her to run away to Utah where she moves in with an old friend she runs into. For a while life in Utah, seems simple and safe. However, eventually even her simple life in a small town turns out to have more beneath the surface than it seems. The close friends she has joined all have secrets they are each harboring from the others. And soon it becomes apparent that her past imprisonment may be coming back to haunt her in an unexpected manner.
Though much of the subject matter is dark and depicted in raw, blunt language, there is a vein of hope which winds its way through the novel, making the reader feel compelled to keep turning the for the hope of a turn of events. This is well- counter balanced with chapters sporadically flashing back to either Devin's memories of her captivity or scene of the boy she was trapped with Cole and his struggle to keep Devin safely away from Grandfather. The uncertainty of it all is reinforced by the piecemeal way in which the reader receives information about Devin's captivity with at first only vague references and memories from Devin and short scenes with Cole. By the end, everything is questionable from what is real love to the morality role of writing a novel. Grandfather plays god with real people in order to write his stories. This experience deeply affects the way Devin views her own writing and writing in general. When asked one day why she stopped writing she thinks, “Writing is dangerous; it gets inside of you. You first write someone up; then you give then feelings. Suddenly, they become alive. Real as you and me. You are controlling them, their destiny. Playing God. What happens when you lose sight of if you are real or the character is real? What happens when you forget that you are sitting at a typewriter and not inside a book?” This question is left unanswered by Devin and one the reader is forced to confront by the unescapable fact that the worlds of fiction and reality have been merged.
Vexation by Elicia Clegg