cover image A Touch of Jen

A Touch of Jen

Beth Morgan. Little, Brown, $28 (356p) ISBN 978-0-316-70426-7

Morgan’s witty if uneven debut attempts a fantastical combination of millennial ennui, obsession, and shape-shifting horror. Remy and Alicia are a barely functioning 30-something couple who both work as servers in different restaurants and share a Brooklyn apartment with a roommate. Remy and Alicia’s relationship revolves around the beautiful and confident Jen, a former colleague of Remy’s, who runs her own jewelry business. The couple receives alerts whenever Jen posts on social media, and they spend most of their time drinking and analyzing Jen’s posts. Alicia also role-plays as Jen as part of their sexual relationship (“What would you do if Jen were in the shower right now?” Alicia calls from the bathroom). The pace picks up when Remy and Alicia join Jen, along with her boyfriend and a few other friends, on a weekend surfing trip to Montauk. As the couple’s fixation on Jen becomes more dangerous and absurd, the lives of several characters, most notably Remy, are permanently altered. There are a few early signs of a horror plot (in Montauk, Remy thinks he sees a giant beetle outside the window, then hears screams), but the gory transition in the final act feels abrupt. Morgan does a great job with the obsession theme, but otherwise this is a bit too messy. Agent: Alexa Stark, Trident Media Group. (July)