Friday, March 15, 2013

INDIE BOOK REVIEW: 'Jenny Pox' is mashup of contemporay and magical history

To me, the mark of a good series is when you put down one book and immediately reach for the next.

In the case of ebooks, I guess it’s when you close out of one book and immediately go searching for the second book in the series to download.

That happens to me several times a year – the most recent being ‘Jenny Pox,’ by J.L. Bryan.

I’m not sure what I expected from the book. I downloaded it weeks ago when it was free – and I just got to it the other night. Apparently, I wasn’t expecting much from it.

This would be a case of patience paying off, though. Not only was I engrossed in the story from the very first page – but I couldn’t put it down until I finished the entire book. It was that good.

It’s important to note that ‘Jenny Pox’ is aimed at a younger audience. It focuses on Jenny Morton, an outcast girl who has a secret ability – when she touches people she spreads a deadly, supernatural plague.

Jenny lives a dark life -- one where she constantly has to where gloves to make sure she doesn't hurt anyone. Her father is an alcoholic and she has absolutely no friends. Even the three-legged runaway dog she adopts can’t touch her. She lives a completely isolated life.

That all changes one day when Seth – the boyfriend of her arch enemy Ashleigh – stops to help her after her dog has been hit by a car. It seems Seth is hiding his own secret. He has the power to heal.

Slowly, Jenny realizes that something a little strange is going on in her small town. Not only is Seth her “opposite” – but she can touch him without hurting him.

The new realization pits Jenny against class bully Ashleigh – who very well may be hiding her own secret (and it's even more dangerous than Jenny's).

I don’t want to ruin the ending for you – because the journey is worth the trek. There is a scene at the end of the book that reminds me of Stephen King’s ‘Carrie’ – in a good way. And, for a second, I thought the end of the book was going to go someplace I didn’t want to travel – but then it rebounded in a surprising way.

‘Jenny Pox’ could have went the trite way of things – painting all of the characters with black and white brushes – but it does a good job of balancing out motivations and small town politics. The mob mentality is alive and well, and 'Jenny Pox' plays with the dynamics of it quite nicely.

The ending sets up nicely for a sequel – which I’ve already downloaded. Bryan has set up an interesting and expansive world here. I can’t wait to explore more of it.

‘Jenny Pox’ is available for $2.99 from the Kindle Store (although it is free right now, so I would suggest downloading it in a hurry). The print version is $9.99.


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