(Jenny Pox #2)
Paranormal Young Adult
Received from author for review
Warning: Contains mild spoilers from Jenny Pox
Tommy, like Jenny, has a touch that repels those around him. With the briefest contact, Tommy instills fear–so much fear that when he's not in control of it he literally scares people to death.
Escaping from a miserable foster home at a young age, Tommy grows up and begins to understand his power and how he can control and manipulate those he touches. After seeing a television interview with Ashleigh Goodling, Jenny's nemesis, Tommy makes for the small town where Jenny recently unleashed her power in all it's gruesome glory.
While Tommy searches for Ashleigh, feeling drawn to her for reasons he doesn't understand, Jenny struggles with the aftermath of her actions and her growing insecurities with Seth as he prepares to head off to college. She's also beginning to remember some of her past incarnations, making some startling discoveries as to just how she, Seth, Ashleigh, and Tommy, as well as two new individuals are all connected.
Tommy Nightmare returns us to a world that causes anxiety and dread to curl up and make themselves at home in our guts, any brief moment of happiness overshadowed by a tangible sense of unease as we know Mr. Bryan has no qualms with putting his characters through physical and emotional turmoil. We plunge forward, blowing through pages held tightly with knuckles gone white from strain, fearing what's in store next might just be worse for Jenny than what she's already experienced, and we emerge from the story with worry lines etched into our faces where there were none before as evidence of our involvement with the story. Tommy Nightmare is not an emotionally easy read, instead it's one where we know things will only get worse before they get better, but Mr. Bryan gives us a flicker of light just when the darkness starts to consume us, and we cling to its tiny brilliance as we hope for Jenny to find the happiness she so deserves.
The reappearance of Ashleigh–a character so detestable we will our hatred of her to be strong enough to singe every appearance of her name from the pages so we don't have to see it any longer–causes us to groan in disgust while begrudgingly admitting to an appreciation of a character who can inspire such an intense reaction. Every word out of her mouth and every action she takes ratchets our apprehension up a notch, knowing her every move is calculated and planned in order to inflict the most pain on the object of her wrath. She's hauntingly villainous, her ability to inspire love with a touch warped beyond all recognition as she uses it to enslave and manipulate, and we read every page hoping someone will share our immunity to her grotesque charm.
Despite being the title character, Tommy's role in this story is surprisingly small, his opening scene enough to raise our hackles and bring forth our protective instincts, but his actions after those first few pages skew our perception of him so we are left in an emotional limbo as to whether or not he's deserving of our affection. We want desperately to believe in him since he's Ashleigh's opposite and therefore capable of resisting her touch, but his easy compliance to her every suggestion without that coercion keeps us wary and defensive. In addition to Tommy, we are introduced to several new characters, each with a unique ability that piques our curiosity and makes us want to read faster in order to find out how they fit into the magnificent puzzle Mr. Bryan has so painstakingly developed.
Tommy Nightmare is highly recommended for older young adult audiences as the sexual content, though not hugely prominent, is a bit more detailed in nature, and the suffocating darkness at times threatens to overwhelm. Luckily for us however, this story, though often a heavy burden to bear when Jenny is mistreated and betrayed again and again, ends by bringing a hesitant smile to our lips as Ashleigh's plans for Jenny are temporarily interrupted by the appearance of a new character. Though we know inevitably the smile will fade as quickly as it came when we get our hands on the next book, it's enough to mildly relax the muscles we've held rigid in reaction to the emotional maelstrom into which these characters thrust us.
Mr. Bryan has generously offered up a signed paperback copy of JENNY POX to one lucky commenter! Please note this is a copy of the first book in the series, not the second which is reviewed above (you can read my review of JENNY POX here). To enter, just leave a comment with a valid email address so I can contact you if you win. Giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only and will run through midnight EST on Friday, June 3rd after which time a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog. Good luck everyone!