Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Review + Giveaway: Jenny Pox

J.L. Bryan
Paranormal Young Adult
Available Now

Everything Jenny Morton touches without a clothing barrier dies a horrible death. She learned this the hard way, picking up a snake when she was little thinking it would be a suitable toy only to watch in horror as bloody sores broke out all over it's body. She's never had extended skin on skin contact with anyone, forced to wear long sleeve shirts and gloves even in the balmy weather of the South.

Now starting her senior year of high school, Jenny is as alone as ever. Forever an outsider due to her quirky habit of wearing gloves to school and the lingering rumors of an unbelievable elementary school battle with popular-girl Ashleigh, she's just waiting for the moment she graduates and can get a local job away from the probing stares of her classmates. Senior year proves to be anything but easy, however, as all the past years of flying somewhat under the radar come to abrupt halt when fortuitous circumstances cause Ashleigh's boyfriend Seth to take notice of Jenny.

While wanting to avoid confrontation with Ashleigh at all costs, Jenny can't help but want to get close to Seth, having learned he possesses the ability to heal and is thereby immune to her curse. Finally she gets to experience physical contact, but her euphoria is short-lived as Ashleigh too has a unique ability, and no one will take what's hers without consequence.

Jenny Pox is a darkly fascinating story, Jenny's ability to spread infection seeming to seep through the pages themselves, searing an everlasting mark on our hearts and minds as permanent as the scars she leaves on those she touches physically. Only instead of leaving pustules in her wake as she embeds herself firmly under our skin, Jenny creates a thriving conduit through which her overwhelming loneliness, misery, and constant longing for even the briefest of touches is transferred, forever linking us together as fiction and reality come together to share a story of forlorn beauty and haunting circumstance. This tale highlights both the inspiring strengths and the abhorrent cruelties of human nature, forcing us to run through the full gamut of emotional responses and refusing to let us return to reality until everything Mr. Bryan wants us to experience has been felt, seen, and fully absorbed.

Jenny is a beautiful heroine; strong of mind and spirit, and born with a curse no human being should have to endure. Her desolation emanates from the story in thick waves, hovering around us like a suffocating cloud through which we struggle to breathe, while the torture of her necessary solitude invokes a devastating sadness in us as we wish with all our strength for a shift in her situation. Her relationship with Seth is characterized by both an undiluted elation at her moments of shared contact with another person and a scorching pain when we realize Ashleigh will retaliate for Seth's change of heart with an unparalleled vehemence. Their attempt at happiness makes us smile through a sheen of tears, but a prevalent sense of dread is our constant companion as we know the pleasure will be fleeting, replaced swiftly with a venomous attack delivered under the guise of good intention.

Ashleigh is monstrously despicable, a girl absolutely devoid of any emotional attachments and someone around whom the dangerous tentacles of blind ambition have strongly coiled. Perhaps most disturbing is her outward appearance of purity, the mask of beauty and perfection so impeccably maintained not even the faintest wisp of villainy escapes it, her true identity buried far below a dazzling smile and hypnotic eyes. Even without her added ability to create love and desire with a simple touch, it's clear the world would still fall prey to her charms, enslaving all those she meets with an expert bat of her eyelashes and a practiced sway of her hips. She is a true master of manipulation, a girl who causes bile to rise in our throats as we choke on her sickeningly saccharine public personality.

The ending is a bit of a departure from the tone of the rest of the story, the paranormal element ratcheting up a drastic notch from it's more subtle presence in the beginning, and culminating in a truly gruesome display of the extent of Jenny's capabilities. This surprisingly graphic turn of events is a bit disconcerting after the mental anguish and quiet conniving leading up to the final showdown, but Mr. Bryan adds a little twist once the horror subsides that provides a viable resolution and believable reconciliation between the events of beginning and end. Though the ages of it's characters might suggest a young adult story, it does contain several scenes that extend beyond a mere implied sexual relationship and are a bit more explicit in detail, therefore better suited to an older audience. There is also some casual drug use that is a bit bothersome at times due to its lack of necessity to the plot, but despite that shortcoming, this story is intensely emotional, brilliantly told, and absolutely worth reading.

Rating: 4/5

GIVEAWAY: Mr. Bryan has agreed to provide an e-book of Jenny Pox to one lucky commenter. If you wish to be entered to win, please leave an email address in your comment so I can contact you. Contest will run through Friday, November 26th after which a winner will be chosen and announced on the blog.


  1. Wow. I have to say, this is one of the most beautifully written reviews I've read in a really long time. Now, I'm dying to read the book! Such an intriguing idea--pestilence come to life in the form of a HS senior (should have know!). It's going on the TBR pile. Thanks for a fabulous review.

    The Book Swarm

  2. Sounds Interesting! Would love to win the e-book and read it! :)

  3. I love when books are just a wee bit twisty and dark...they keep me fascinated and intrigued throughout all the plot twists and turns. I love how incredibly deep and thorough your review is, Jenny! This has to be your finest yet! Please enter me :)

    iswimforoceans at gmail dot com

  4. What a great review!

    It sounds like a very unique premise and how sad to not be able to touch things. I don't know that I could live like that.

  5. Oh!!! I'm so glad you liked it. What a beautiful review. I cannot wait for his second one.

  6. I would love to read this one too :) Please enter me.

    baychriz at gmail dot com

  7. This sounds like a great and interesting read. How sad not being able to touch anybody? I wonder and hope it all works out for her. Nice review :)

    bwithbite (at) gmail (dot) com

  8. Sounds fascinating, and I do love dark and twisty tales! :) I'd definitely be interested in reading this. eapitera at gmail dot com

  9. Mary - Thank you so much! This story definitely has a very unique premise:)

    Ai - It was!

    Melissa - This one definitely has some darkness in it. And thank you, this review came easily to me:)

    Felicia - It's very sad, I really felt for her.

    Tori - I'm really looking forward to it as well!

    Chrizette - Hope you enjoy it if you win:)

    Savy - It is very interesting, I think you'd like it!

    Erika - Dark and twisty it is:)

  10. This one sounds interesting, Jenny. It reminds me a bit of one of the "Lords" who has the demon of disease (God, I wish I remember his name!). I have to say that the cover threw me off, not very typical for a YA paranormal. Count me in the giveaway.

    Email: rummanaha (at) hotmail (dot) com.

  11. It sounds like a really good story. One I would probably cry to, since I get in to the characters feelings, and it can´t be easy for her, not being able to touch anything.
    I would really love this one :)

  12. Jenny Pox sounds fantastic. Great review, Jenny!

    Enter me for the contest, I would love to read it!

    -Chelsea / Vampire Book Club
    chelsea AT vampirebookclub.net

  13. Great review. I never would have thought any of that from the cover, seems almost to bright and playful to go with the story as you described.

  14. Finally!!!! Yesss! I'm soooo glad that you posted your review of "Jenny Pox" because it's one of the best books I've read this year, and one of the best books period, and Jeff mentioned you'd be reviewing it--very insightful, if I may say so myself! :-)


  15. This is a really intersting sounding book--thank you for introducing me to it :)

    book.splot [at] gmail [dot] com

  16. Sounds like a great read. Thanks!
    bkhabel at gmail dot com

  17. Great review on an excellent book. I reviewed it myself in October. Glad you enjoyed it.

  18. No need to enter me. I'm reading this book now and I'm really enjoying it!

  19. 'Their attempt at happiness makes us smile through a sheen of tears, but a prevalent sense of dread is our constant companion as we know the pleasure will be fleeting, replaced swiftly with a venomous attack delivered under the guise of good intention.' Wow. Amazing review. This sounds like my kind of book.

    Please enter me for the contest. Thank you for the giveaway.

  20. Wow, this sounds great. I'd love to try it.

  21. This sounds like a very interesting book. Much darker than I'd expect from the cover. What a horrible burden to have. Poor Jenny.
    alisoncanread at gmail dot com

  22. Ooooo this does sound really good. Wonderful review!

  23. Ah. The dark side of Pushing Daisies. I have the book on my TBR, and now I'm really looking forward to reading it.

    Smiling through a sheen of tears. What a powerful and beautiful way to describe something! Love it!

  24. I hadn't heard of this one before. Thanks for putting it on my radar! Your review is really evocative.

    imagesandwords at optonline dot net

  25. I have to admit I've not heard about this book before but it sounds like a powerful and intense book - can't wait to read it. The review was great.

    notanotherbookblog at hotmail dot co dot uk

  26. Would love to win...thx!


    Jen @ I Read Banned Books

  27. Didn't know the book. I think it has an interesting premise, and hope I'll have luck in this contest, thanks


  28. Jenny Pox by J.L. Bryan. I could lie and pretend that I was entering to win this for my YA daughter; but the truth is, it sounds like such a fascinating book that I want to read it myself--no matter how old I am :)
    Teresa [at] LadySilk (dot) Net

  29. Awesome! Thanks so much! My email is apereiraorama @ gmail.com

    Thanks and keep blogging! :D