By: Jay Kay
Pus Junkies – Book Review
Author: Shane McKenzie
Publisher: Eraserhead Press
Imagine your high school years for a moment? The aspect of acceptance, dating, studies, peer pressure and of course adolescence. We all have stories that make us shake our head on what we did during those four years molding us into the people we are today. Memories of our classes, dances, pep rallies, study halls and more flood our minds as we move through life. For author Shane McKenzie, those times imprinted the angst and uncomfortable feel of higher education on his already demented soul. These times are his playground in the spiral of horror literature entitled PUS JUNKIES.
Most people face anything from a small blemish to a mild breakout, but for the main character Kip, he faces a full and disgusting outbreak of zits all over himself! He has learned to deal with them, just like the pains of high school including bullying, low self-esteem and peer pressure. In other words, Kip’s life is hell! Living with his mother, he reconnects with his cousin Zak who has come to stay with them and start anew after issues at home. Kip, whose entire body has earned the name “Toad”, welcomes his cousin with open arms hoping that not only will he find a friend again, but perhaps make the punishment of high school less bruising and painful.
As both Zak and Kip move through the school year, Kip deals with a group of bullies led by Chuck who continues to torment him every chance he gets. Kip’s only light and hope is for the one that does not look at him with disgust, Gwen. As Kip’s mother leaves for the week, Zak convinces Kip to attend a party with Zak looking to build his cousin’s self-confidence back up and redirect those who have been cruel to him to the new Kip no matter how he may look. Leading up to the party, Kip is noticing more and more that his legion of greasy and fully loaded acne at times has a mind of their own and is secreting something that is causing Kip to worry and wonder. Kip does not realize that his acne for some unknown reason is psychically connected to him and services a much more insidious purpose.
Nothing changes at the party as Kip is tormented and ridiculed by his peers including the easiest and hottest girl in the school, Jade who wants Zak badly and does not understand or accept rejection from anyone… including Zak! Realizing it too late, Jade tries to make her boyfriend Chuck and Zak jealous by making out with the Kip in front of everyone. The experience of lust, anxiety and sensation are incredible at first for Kip but triggers his acne to explode onto Jade’s skin and into her mouth. At first Jade and the party goers back away but as Jade is exposed to the blood and yellowish puss, it triggers an addiction more powerful than style trend, drug or peer pressure you have ever come across. The addiction will bring out the lust, insanity, darkness and more of those who become addicted. Each pus junkie will become that monster deep inside themselves changing on every level! What happens when power and peer pressure become one and the rejected become the addiction to disturbing and horrific ends?
I have no doubt as a reader and former high school nobody, that PUS JUNKIES came from the years of high school pains, bullying and embarrassing acne break outs that Shane McKenzie had. Just like most readers who lived through the awkward time of growth and development, it was imprinted on McKenzie as he grew older. As a storyteller, McKenzie is able to find the macabre in deep pains and fears through each story that he pens but at the same time making those who suffer feel empowered with the uniqueness they have. Whether it comes in the very detailed and gross face of Kip and the pulse of each zit that lay on his exterior or the addiction that comes from the zits, McKenzie knows how to make sure that the reader is hooked on each word.
Dealing with bullying, acceptance, change and pressure, PUS JUNKIES is not for everyone as a reader. It is a fantastically disturbed piece of fiction that carries a balanced quality on each level through evolving characters, a relatable storyline, infusion of sexuality (no matter how primal and disturbing it may be) and dysfunction that builds into madness and chaos with each chapter. Reading a variety of his works, McKenzie knows how to create lasting visuals. Starting with the first chapter, you realize not only does McKenzie plan to push boundaries of your deep, dark mind (just like each zit that has been harvested on Kip’s body) but he won’t stop until you are totally immersed in all the blood and bodily fluid you can handle! Laced with teenage angst (i.e. Kip and Zak’s struggles to find new paths) and dark humor that at times is just plain wrong on so many levels, PUS JUNKIES balances this overall visceral feel with a gooey emotionally invested sensibility that shows through the insane events, characters, relationships and more.
Shane McKenzie is one of the truly disturbed and brilliant authors on the more extreme side of horror writing. He has a variety of horror fiction available on Amazon (in multiple formats) and through a variety of publishers with books like WET & SCREAMING, MONSTERS DON’T CRY, MUTT, MUERTE CON CARTE and more (I recommend Muerte Con Carte to read next). McKenzie loves to create gory fun, gross visuals and smart stories for everyone to connect to and expose others to. Living the dream, he has built a following cultivating the realistic side of every day dark fiction and respect from peers deep in the dark world of horror writing. Are you in the mood to a take a trip back to good old high school fun and hell? Well class is in session… on your senior reading is the gore and addiction of Shane McKenzie’s PUS JUNKIES a required reading!