Author: Beth Morgan
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
First Published: July 13, 2021
Genres: Bizarro, Contemporary, Dark Comedy, Horror, Satire
Format: ARC, eBook
Remy and Alicia, a couple of insecure service workers, are not particularly happy together. But they are bound by a shared obsession with Jen, a beautiful former co-worker of Remy’s who now seems to be following her bliss as a globe-trotting jewelry designer. In and outside the bedroom, Remy and Alicia's entire relationship revolves around fantasies of Jen, whose every Instagram caption, outfit, and new age mantra they know by heart.
Imagine their confused excitement when they run into Jen, in the flesh, and she invites them on a surfing trip to the Hamptons with her wealthy boyfriend and their group. Once there, Remy and Alicia try (a little too hard) to fit into Jen’s exalted social circle, but violent desire and class resentment bubble beneath the surface of this beachside paradise, threatening to erupt. As small disturbances escalate into outright horror, we find ourselves tumbling with Remy and Alicia into an uncanny alternate reality, one shaped by their most unspeakable, deviant, and intoxicating fantasies. Is this what “self-actualization” looks like?
Part millennial social comedy, part psychedelic horror, and all wildly entertaining, A Touch of Jen is a sly, unflinching examination of the hidden drives that lurk just outside the frame of our carefully curated selves.
Warnings: Sex, Violence
Well, this was certainly one of the more bizarre books that I’ve read in recent memory. A Touch of Jen is psychedelic millennial satire horror that reads like a fever dream. I read this book in a frenzy, finishing in under 48 hours, I just felt compelled to keep turning the page and had a hard time putting it down.
The story follows Remy and Alicia, a toxic couple obsessed with Jen, an instagram model that Remy used to work with. Remy is a pitiful ‘nice guy’ and Alicia has low self-esteem. Remy is not subtle about his disdain for his girlfriend, yet they stay together out of mutual loneliness. They spice up their sex life with Alicia-as-Jen roleplay. Their world is shaken up when they run into Jen and are invited on a surfing trip. There is so much biting satire about millennial culture, social media obsession, and other social ills sprinkled throughout the narrative.
“The satisfaction of seeing this picture in his mind is almost as good as actually being inside it.”
I was lulled into a sense of security with all the character drama that I had forgotten that this was a horror novel until it had crept up on me. Things spiral wildly into an intense body horror as the obsession transforms into a search for “self-actualization.” The story veers sharply in the last quarter of the novel in a good way that makes all of the seemingly random pieces come together in a deviously satisfying way.
Despite my praise, I did find some flaw with the exceptionally long build-up. There was so much of the story that was frankly not that important to the plot and it strays often. This story was more character rather than plot-driven and it became a drag. Even so, I can’t help but admire Morgan’s boldness to debut with a book this bizarre.