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This review is from: Jenny Pox (The Paranormals, Book 1) (Kindle Edition)
You might think the last thing anyone needs is another novel about American high school teens with supernatural powers. This one is different. The characters and the small town setting are well crafted and the opening chapters genuinely moving, as Jenny's uncontrollable ability to spread deadly disease by touch looks like dooming her to a life of isolation. Her paranormal power is a trope for teenage insecurities but although she is ostracised and bullied she is never a passive victim. Her home life in particular is tenderly described; especially her bumbling, drunken father, who even cannot even remember that her dog has three legs.
Ashleigh, the principal bully, is a superb satire on the American Dream: pushy, pious, full of wholesome values and president of everything (with an eventual eye on the White House), she is an appalling, two-faced, self-serving hypocrite of the kind who generally fill most elected offices. She is the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) fictional villain in a long time and so wickedly funny that one is torn between wishing her dead (every male reader above a certain age will have had a girlfriend like her) and hoping she makes it through to the sequel for sheer entertainment value.
Obvious influences include Carrie and The Green Mile, but Bryan creates a more convincing world: by the end I felt I cared more for Fallen Oak - a sleepy backwater where even the important people are nobodies - than the author. As a non-American, I also wondered whether The Covenant - a sinister right-wing evangelical political group - is a real organisation, or complete fiction. Neither would surprise me.
For me the most disappointing part was the last dozen pages, where Bryan steps into the persona of a standard horror writer. If we must have doses of horror, less is more. Indeed, earlier in the book he wisely avoids a few obvious chances to make our flesh creep. The cinematic deaths at the conclusion are far less scary than the earlier ones left to our imagination.
I would have thought older teenagers would enjoy the book: there are a few sexual encounters but these are either tender or funny. There is enough wit to make a cat laugh and readers of any age would have to work hard not to have fun.