Series: The Paranormals #1
Author: J.L. Bryan
Genre: Adult - Paranormal
Source: Amazon (Free)
Summary: Eighteen-year-old Jenny Morton has a horrific secret: her touch spreads a deadly supernatural plague, the "Jenny pox." She lives by a single rule: Never touch anyone. A lifetime of avoiding any physical contact with others has made her isolated and painfully lonely in her small rural town.
Then she meets the one boy she can touch. Jenny feels herself falling for Seth...but if she's going to be with him, Jenny must learn to use the deadly pox inside her to confront his ruthless and manipulative girlfriend Ashleigh, who secretly wields the most dangerous power of all.
May contain spoilers, but not really. Just proceed with caution.
Thoughts: What first caught my attention was the cover (and the fact that it was a free Kindle book on Amazon.) Then it got pushed to the bottom of my list and I wasn't planning on reading it. I was actually in the middle of a few other books when I decided to pick it up on a whim. I think maybe it was because I saw some talk about it on Twitter, but I can't remember why exactly. While I usually stay away from indie author's, I am glad that I read this one because Jenny Pox was not what I expected and it totally caught me off guard. From the first few pages, I was absolutely hooked. I figured out quite fast that Jenny Pox was in fact not the young adult paranormal romance I had been expecting. While it most definitely has paranormal elements, as well as romance, it is pretty different and horrifying read that is geared towards adults. I was captivated by such a unique story from the beginning and could not put it down until the end.
What I liked:
• The protagonist, Jenny Morton (aka Jenny Mittens): She has a rare power that infects people with "Jenny Pox," a gruesome plague, when she touches them. In order to keep people safe, she wears gloves every day and long sleeved clothing and keeps herself away from everyone. Bullied by her fellow classmates, all Jenny wants is to get out of high school and continue her isolated life, to care for her father and work to earn some money. Jenny is a character that you can't help but like. She lives a sad, lonely life but has a huge heart and I instantly connected with her. She wanted to lash out at the people who constantly hurt her, but knew that she wouldn't, and all she really wanted was to be left alone. I thought she was a great protagonist and even though she had a horrible power, she did not use it until she had to.
• The enemy, Ashleigh: Jenny Pox is told from two points of view (mostly.) We are introduced from the beginning to Jenny's enemy, Ashleigh, the kind of girl that you love to hate. She is very different to Jenny: popular, loved, admired, wanted, etc. and enjoys torturing Jenny. She is one of the few people who remember and knows about Jenny's power and she ensures that she is bullied by everyone. It is hard to understand why so many people want to be near such a cruel person, but it becomes apparent that she also has a special power that keeps people near.
• The setting: Jenny Pox takes place in a small town, with small town kind of people. I have never lived in or spent too much time in a small town, but the author was able to create a place that I was able to really see and feel which made it extremely easy to connect with, especially when getting to know the characters and their lives.
• The relationship between Seth & Jenny: At first, Seth is the guy you know you shouldn't trust. Not only is he Ashleigh's loving boyfriend, but he's also a jock, rich, has bullied Jenny, and is too good looking to be any good. Then one day, he helps Jenny in a completely surprising and unexpected way that shows...he ain't that bad after all. At least, not when Ashleigh doesn't have her hands on him. Instead, he is quite caring and it is not surprising how instantly Jenny falls for him. Their connection is powerful and fascinating. I couldn't help but root for them the whole time.
• The horror/violence: This book is filled with horrifying scenes and situations. Lots of blood, lots of guts, lots of deaths. I loved it.
• The plot: We start off learning about Jenny's powers with a few scenes from her childhood. We find out what she can do and how she must live. We then fast forward to her teenage years and the torture she lives in. Once she meets Seth, her life changes completely and the story really picks up from there. Once things start rolling, there is non-stop development until the end and I liked every second of it.
• The conclusion: Dude. The scenes leading up to the ending were gruesome, awesome and then some. It totally blew me away and kept me glued to the pages. There were a few shocking twists that left me with my jaw hanging, but the ending was wrapped up pretty nicely. There are a few questions that are left hanging in the air, so I know I need to pick up the next book to find out what happens!
What I didn't like:
• There were two things that I didn't like but they are minor so I will not say too much on them 1) Seth cheats on Ashleigh with Jenny. I am not okay with cheating and while I totally get it...how and why it happened and I know the kinds of powers involved with the whole thing, I still felt iffy about it. 2) Insta-love. It happens a little fast, sorta rushed. It wasn't bad, I just wished it would've taken a little longer for them to fall in love. But I did love their connection, so I can't complain.
Overall: Jenny Pox is an original, dark, bittersweet and terrifying story that took me by surprise. The writing is engaging, the pace is effective and the characters are relatable and likable. I definitely recommend this to adults¹ who enjoy paranormal. Jenny Pox is an addictive story that will take you on a wild ride and keep you wanting more.
About the author: J.L. Bryan studied English literature at the University of Georgia and at Oxford, with a focus on English Renaissance and Romantic literature. He also studied screenwriting at UCLA. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Christina, dogs Violet and Tiger Lily, and cats Shadow and Sue.
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Get the book: Amazon
¹It has been considered an older teen book, but it does contain violence and explicit sexual content that might not be suitable for everyone.