Admit it — you’ve thought about it. We all have. The girl or guy you thought was sweet and wonderful breaks your heart, or does something unexpectedly awful to you. And for a time — maybe even for just a moment — you’re wishing he or she were dead. Unlike Jenny Green, however, you likely haven’t acted on those wishes. A self-described Long Island JAP — Jewish American Princess — with an Omigawd voice, boy-crazy Jenny decides to flee the social traumas of her high-school social circle by convincing her folks to enrol her in Molson Academy, a prestigious boarding school north of the border in Montreal.
Once there, Jenny tracks down the one person she knows in La Belle Province, a supremely crush-worthy boy from her hometown named Josh Beck. She falls for him. They date. And then he turns creepy. So Jenny kills him. She surveys the scene — “Josh Beck was like totally dead,” she observes — then resolves to hide the corpse and do away with the evidence. Thus does her body count begin.
Jenny’s darkly funny Montreal dating misadventures animate Jenny Green’s Killer Junior Year by Amy Belasen and Jacob Osborn — a debut for both authors. Belasen conceived of the idea based on her experiences as an American university student in Montreal, then met Osborn, who came on board as a collaborator.
In search of the Jewish Prince Charming, the authors steer Jenny through a series of encounters with guys who fail to do their gender much credit. Hapless or fickle at best, outright predatory at worst, the men who wander into Jenny’s life at Molson — from maladjusted fellow students through discomfiting professors — keep doing things to incur her wrath, and payback ensues. “We call her the divine janitor of human garbage,” Belasen says. An avenging angel dressed in Juicy Couture.
While the book is a collaboration, it grew out of the extensive journals that Belasen kept during her time as a student in Montreal; she estimates that 60 per cent of Jenny Green’s story (minus the killing) is lifted directly from her life. Eighteen years old when she moved to Montreal in 2001, most of her friends in Voorheesville — a village of a few thousand just outside Albany in New York state — were planning to attend college in New York City. Montreal had often been a Belasen family vacation destination, and Amy figured that, while she’d almost inevitably end up moving to Gotham at some point, she might never have another chance to try living in Canada. McGill University beckoned.
North of the border, Belasen felt isolated. Having applied late for residence, she was assigned to a small residence on Avenue des Pins where she lived with 16 “hippie girls.” The World Trade Center was attacked just after she arrived, and she found herself surrounded by Canadians who weren’t shy about saying that America had deserved it. She clung to her only connection in the city: a boy from her hometown who later provided the template for the ill-fated Josh Beck.
Though Belasen fell in love with Montreal — an affection that’s evident in the novel, as Jenny twirls through restaurants and nightspots like Buonanotte and Le Pistol, and a McGill campus thinly disguised as the fictitious Molson Academy — she was less taken with its single men. After things soured with Josh, she embarked on a string of dating debacles that would inform Jenny’s experiences — and her bloody habits.
“Without mentioning specifics, there is one episode in the book that really was the starting point of the novel for me,” Belasen says. “On this particular date, I actually, certifiably, wanted blood. I was fuming inside. I found myself having a conversation with my date about whether he’d ever thought about ridding the world of someone he disliked. He turned to me — and I remember this clear as day — and he said, ‘Amy, you’re scaring me.’ ” That night, Belasen went home and wrote in her journal about her date’s death.
Jenny Green emerged as Belasen’s alter ego, a proto-feminist anti-hero starring in a slasher novel for young adults. It may well find an audience broader than the publisher’s 14-and-up age recommendation suggests. Its viciously black humour, and frank treatments of sex and violence, give it the potential to cross over beyond a young adult audience, much as Gossip Girl and The Hills have. It may find particular favour with anyone still seething over the conduct of an ex. “This book isn’t supposed to inspire anybody to go out and kill their ex-boyfriends,” Belasen says, “but if nothing else, it should offer some sort of relief.”