Jenny Morton discovered early in life that she could never touch anyone. If she did, they would immediately develop horrible sores and eventually die if she held on for too long. Needless to say, Jenny is a lonely girl. At school, she's largely seen as a low class, shy freak because of the gloves she wears everyday and her dad being a drunk. She has pretty much faded into the background in her classmates' minds, except for Ashleigh, an ambitious and cruel cheerleader, who makes fun of her pretty consistently. Jenny is resigned to her lonely life, when something unexpected happens. Her dog is brutally run over by a dumb football player and Seth, Ashleigh's jock boyfriend, stops to help. With his healing powers, he saves her dog, even restoring the leg that was lost before Jenny got him. She is excited that there is someone else out there like her and she may even be able to touch him without harming him. However, he is still with the evil Ashleigh, who seems to be more than just an annoying, ambitious, popular cheerleader. How will she react when her equally popular boyfriend is taken away from her? Has Jenny finally found happiness?
Jenny Pox is one of the most unique fantasy books I've read all year. There aren't any typical supernatural creatures, like werewolves or vampires, but fairly normal teenagers with powers that I haven't really seen before (namely Jenny's and Ashleigh's). It's a breath of fresh air compared to the assembly line of novels that just seem to jump on the bandwagon of whatever's popular right now. Even though their powers are a big part of the story, it's the main characters that really make the novel interesting and hard to put down. Jenny is a relatable, good character. I really felt for her in her loneliness and her resignation to a life she really didn't want. She could have used her powers to kill the people she didn't like and even get away with it, but she decided that living quietly at the sacrifice of her happiness was a better decision. Her powers and the quirky romantic story kind of remind me of a reverse Ned from Pushing Daisies. The friendship and romance between her and Seth is so sweet. They both can be themselves around each other and don't have to hide who they are. As their relationship evolves, so does Jenny. She blossoms in to a strong, assertive girl who is in control of her own power.
Ashleigh, on the other hand, is one of the best villains I've ever encountered. On the outside, she's the perfect, pretty, popular girl who can do no wrong. On the inside, she's a sociopath who will take advantage of anyone if it benefited her. She has no real relationships, only people she can push around or step on to get her way. I loved to hate her. She sets up these crazy plans that end up working and making everyone else look horrible in comparison to her. Her ability is pretty insane and she uses it pretty much whenever she can, unlike Jenny. The despicable things she does get worse as the novel goes along and it was shocking to me how far she would go to get what she wanted.
Jenny Pox is now one of my favorite books. I literally could not put it down until I was finished. JL Bryan mixes supernatural elements with a realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a teenager. I think everyone could find something they like in this novel: horror, romance, fantasy, and even politics. I highly recommend it. I hope that it will eventually be reprinted in a smaller, more manageable format (the paperback I bought is enormous) and made more widely available.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins