Jenny Pox by JL Bryan has been on my TBR list for a few months now. The premise, that a girl has to struggle with an unwanted ability to infect people with a deadly virus any time she comes into contact with them, reminded me a lot of my favorite XMen character, Rogue. Who didn’t struggle with issues of intimacy and isolation as a teen? These kinds of stories made me appreciate the fact that my isolation was just a passing phase of social awkwardness that I could grow out of. But,what do you if your attempts at loving someone would literally kill them? That question formed the basis of Jenny Pox.
Jenny is an ordinary teen girl in most ways: she lives at home with her dad in a small town, has a part time job, and has a crush on a cute boy at school. For reasons neither of them can define, she also has a persistent lifelong rival in the form of Ashleigh, the town’s darling. The story follows Jenny’s struggles with Ashleigh and trying to find her place in the town that fears and mistrusts her.
There were a couple of scenes that were a little surprising to me in the context of a YA novel as they seemed rather explicit, but they made sense with the rest of the plot and didn’t detract at all. Bryan did a wonderful job of gradually revealing Ashleigh’s true nature. Each scene told from her perspective sheds more and more light on her personality and plans and I found myself almost dreading every scene she was in because I was afraid of what twist she’d come up with next.
There was a bit of a surprise reveal at the end that explains why Jenny has the power that she does and I can honestly say that I never saw it coming, but it was sort of out of nowhere. It felt a little bit like watching a mystery-thriller and guessing at the killer the whole time only to find out it was a stranger and you never had a chance to get it right. In short, it felt a little unfair. However, I can see why it was written the way it was and it opened the door to any number of sequels. I’ve got the second book, Tommy Nightmare, queued up to start reading today. I’m really excited to see the aftermath of the climax of Jenny Pox. The way things left off, there’s no doubt that life will be radically different for Jenny in the future.
I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in superhero or mean teen stories. It’s an exciting (and sometimes very tense) read and the pages just flew by.