AUTHOR: J.L. Bryan
SERIES: The Paranormals #1
GENRE: Young Adult-Horror-Paranormal
PUBLICATION DATE: May 2009
READ DATE: November 2011
SUMMARY: Jenny has a secret. Her touch spreads a supernatural plague. She devotes her life to avoiding contact with people, until her senior year of high school, when she meets the one boy she can touch, and she falls in love. But there's a problem--he's under the spell of his devious girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all. Now Jenny must learn to use the deadly "Jenny pox" she's fought her entire life to hide, or be destroyed by Ashleigh's ruthless plans.
At first glance, J.L. Bryan's Jenny Pox seems to be one of many typical young adult paranormal romances that are prevalent in the literary world today. You have an outsider heroine with strange abilities that she doesn't understand and a hero who seems to see past her freakiness. That's when most of the stereotypes stop in Jenny Pox. What you actually have is a fresh approach to paranormal romance that mixes many genres such as black comedy, thriller, and horror. I will warn readers that this book is not for the faint of heart. Quite a few of the scenes can be pretty gruesome and the subject matter may be too mature for some young adult readers.
The protagonist of the series is Jenny Morton who was born with a strange power (or curse) that causes her to release a dangerous disease through skin to skin contact. Think Rogue from the X-Men comics, but even more sinister. Jenny's father has taught his daughter to avoid contact at all times in an effort to save her from her hometown's fear and wrath. But, her abilities have caused Jenny to become an outsider especially after an unfortunate incident on the playground when she was six years old.
The main focus of this book is Jenny's transformation from meek high schooler to kickass heroine who takes control of her powers. Through her growing relationship with the only person who can touch her skin (Seth), Jenny finds confidence in herself and learns to appreciate her abilities rather than fear them. As a reader, I fully empathized with Jenny's plight. She desperately wants to fit in at school, but understands the reasons she can't. But, when her life starts spiraling out of control, Jenny embraces her powers and uses them to show her enemies exactly what she's made of.
The catalyst for Jenny's change is the realization that Seth, the most popular boy in her high school, can touch her bare skin without suffering any setbacks. He has his own abilities to thank for that though they are not nearly as life-altering as Jenny's. I will admit that, at first, I was not a huge fan of Seth as a character. He seemed bland and two dimensional and seemed only to be there as a romantic object. But, as the story got darker, Bryan showed how Seth was transforming and growing into his powers. This made him a much more realistic partner for Jenny and I look forward to finding out more about him later in the series.
Then, we have Ashleigh Goodling, the villain of the book and possibly the series. Ashleigh is a fabulously written character. She is the typical popular preacher's daughter who puts on a sweet face in front of authority, terrorizes her geekier classmates, and manipulates the entire town to bow at her feet. What makes her even more menacing is the fact that she has a power just like Jenny and Seth. Her abilities have provided her with the means to do anything she wants and has fed her insatiable need for power. I loved how the author portrayed Ashleigh and how twisted love and devotion can become in the wrong hands.
While this book was not what I expected when I ordered it, I was pleasantly surprised by the originality and the writing style that Bryan showcased. The pacing seemed leisurely at first, which corresponded nicely with the small town setting, but it picked up by the end. I really liked how most of the characters were depicted and enjoyed seeing how they each represented a section of society upon which the author could comment on. I can't wait to read more in this series especially to see how Jenny grows and get more answers about the origin of her abilities.
4.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
"The thing about money was that it really gave you a chance to express your insanity."
"You won't regret trying, win or lose. But you will regret not trying."
1. Jenny Pox
2. Tommy Nightmare
3. Alexander Death