Title: Jenny Pox
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Paranormal
Published: July 24th 2010 by www.jlbryanbooks.com
“Jenny is a quiet, small-town girl in South Carolina whose touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague. Jenny can't control her power. Her life is friendless and lonely until she meets a boy with the opposite power, a healing touch. Her love for him brings the wrath of his beautiful and immensely popular girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.Jenny must master her own deadly power in order to free Seth from Ashleigh's control. Then she must defeat Ashleigh before Ashleigh can destroy her.”
*I received my copy for review by the author*
I already stated in the interview with Jeff Bryan yesterday that this book really managed to surprise me. When I started reading, I expected a girl-meets-boy YA book with paranormal touch. Turns out I was wrong.
Jenny Pox tells a powerful and intense story of an outsider who has to struggle to live with her horrible power. It begins with a very disturbing scene introducing Jenny as toddler playing with a snake and killing her with her touch. It´s disturbing because even if she´s so small, Jenny is already aware of her power: she knows she has to stick to some rules:
Never touch people. Never talk to anybody but Daddy.
And, above all, never tell anyone. She´s also aware that she´s the reason her mom is dead, which is really a sad thing to know for a girl at that age. What makes the scene even harder to bare is the fact that her dad can´t even confort her through direct physical touch but has to put on a special cuddle suit and mask to be anyhow near his daughter.
The next part of the book introduces Jenny as teenager and how she handles her daily life: How she avoids touching people in order to not hurt or accidentally kill someone and how that makes her a freak and outcast, espacially because of Ashleigh. Ashleigh is the girl everyone loves, everyone wants to be friends with. The girl that decides who is cool and who´s not. And Jenny who wears mittens the whole year is definetly different and thus definetly not cool. She is shunned and mocked by everyone on school. Add to this the fact that her father is basically an alcoholic and makes just enough money to come by, you can get a picture of Jenny´s life.
A major change happens when her dog Rocky is hit by a car and saved by –of all people- Seth, Ashleigh´s beloved and devoted boyfriend. It turns out that he also has a gift no one knows about: the healing touch. Finally, her life begins to change. She finds someone she can talk with and confide in, someone who shares the same fears and worries like her. Slowly, she begins to fall for Seth and when she finds out that he is the only one she can touch without infecting, she finds something positive to hope for in the future, But unfortunatly, the happy days don´t last long. Ashleigh finds out about their growing relationship and tries to move heaven and earth to manipulate them. What she doesn´t know however is that with her actions, she sets something in motion she might not be able to stop.
The pace of this book is just right. At the beginning, J.L. Bryan takes his time to introduce his characters, to develop them and set the stage for everything else that´s going to happen. After Seth´s secret is revealed, it picks up the pace until it ends with a huge huge escalation.
Another thing that makes Jenny Pox such a great book are the complex, compelling and realistic character. Jenny, the ultimative outsider who longs for company and physical contact yet thinks this might be forever denied for her. It´s amazing how she puts up with all theanger, hate and harassment she has to deal with because of Ashleigh. It´s really no wonder that at times she is about to snap and lose control of her power. The problems she has to deal with from her family´s side would be enough for a normal teenager: feeling responible for the death of her mother, her alcoholic father, the fact that she has to work to make more money. It´s sweet to finally see her develop romantic feelings for the very first time. Together with Seth, she grows quite a bit in the story!
Ashleigh must be one of the most manipulative, cruel, two-faced, begoted b***hes I´ve ever come across in books. She uses sex, religion and love to control people and make them do her bidding ruthlessly. I really don´t want to gove too much away, but the things she does to be on TV or a radio show is really beyond anything some sane would do. The only person she can´t control and in fact the only person to see her for what she really is is Jenny. That´s the reason Ashleigh hates her so much and tries her best to destroy her.
Seth is a really sweet character and gets even more likeable as he slowly frees himself from Ashleigh´s influence. Sometimes, he´s like other boys his age but then again he´s so much more mature.
Even the minor characters in this book nover fall flat but convince with their authentic and realistic personalities. One of my favorites is definetly Jenny´s father who changes quite a bit throughout the book.
The paranormal aspect is strictly limited to the gifts. I didn´t mind however, especially as there is an explanation for it at the end of the book and that was all I wanted. There are some things left unsaid and unresolved, which only makes you want to read more about Jenny.
For everyone who, like me, expects a Young Adult book: here´s a warning. This story contains sex scenes, drug use, violence and at the end quite a few gory scenes. In the interview, I already asked whether this book might be considered offensive by some certain groups, so if you don´t want to read about such things, please stay away from them.
For all the others who don´t mind reading about that, go on and give it a try. You won´t regret it!
It´s a page-turner who convinces with fantastic characters, an original story and great writing. It´s pretty much everything you could wish for!