Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Book Review: Jenny Pox

Jenny Pox (The Paranormals, #1)Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being a regular reader of Amanda Hocking's blog, I saw a trailer for this book and her suggestion to check it out while it was free from the Amazon Kindle Store (and it still is at the time of writing this review). The trailer was very impressive and professional so it seemed worthwhile to give it a go. I am glad to say I was not disappointed; original, twisted and with good pacing, Jenny Pox not only has a great title but a very nice story going on in its pages. It's far from perfect, but the few niggles weren't enough to ruin the experience.

Plot: 18-year-old Jenny Morton is cursed - every living thing she touches gets the plague ('the Jenny Pox'), and if contact is held for longer than a couple of minutes, they die, horribly. A lifetime of not being able to touch people has left her lonely and an outcast in the small, rural town of Fallen Oak. Her life is made ever more miserable by the machinations of Ashleigh Goodling, a super-popular, beautiful girl, with a secret of her own. Then Jenny discovers something marvelous and terrible; there is at least one person she can touch, and it just happens to be Ashleigh's boyfriend Seth Barret...

Many have said this isn't a Young Adult book, but I felt most of the story was very much a standard paranormal YA tale. But this is definitely unlike any YA book I've ever read, and I suspect it's meant primarily for those aged 16+. Gore, sex, drugs - it's got it all and personally it was a breath of fresh air from the usual YA fare that pretends these things don't exist, or at least talks about them very indirectly. I would definitely have read this at 16, maybe even 15 without any problems (but then I was reading Stephen King by 13, so this is a totally subjective opinion).

The story is interesting, and though it sags a bit in the middle (when it goes deep into standard YA paranormal romance territory) it isn't long before it picks up and hurtles to a very dramatic, and icky, conclusion. This is not a book for those with a weak stomach.

The characters could do with a bit of fleshing out, as they mostly feel like archetypes, especially Seth. Jenny is suitably tortured, though I wondered at her actions in the final act - there would have been a benefit in seeing a crueler side to her earlier on to make it flow, but it still works. Asheigh is by far the best character, though again her character lacks a certain depth. There was however a redeeming moment in the final act, where we get a glimpse of her point of view about Jenny, and it was a welcome addition to make her more than just the 2-dimensional baddie.

There's definitely a touch of Carrie to Jenny Pox, along with a dash of Mean Girls (Ashleigh is essentially a paranormal Regina George, and I always saw Rachel McAdams while I was reading Ashleigh scenes). Anyone with a sympathy for the underdog teenager should get a kick out of this. Though I'm a little unsure about the explanation for the powers (it's given rather suddenly in the last few chapters) I'm willing to carry on reading the trilogy to see how it pans out. If you want a different sort of YA novel - without the sweetness, or easy morals - then Jenny Pox would be worth trying. Especially while it's still free.

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