The Killing Jar by Jennifer Bosworth

the-killing-jarBibliographic Information:

  • Publisher, Date: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2016
  • Edition: First
  • Description: 346 pages ; 22 cm; hardcover
  • Interest Level: YA
  • Summary: “’I try not to think about it, what I did to that boy.’ Seventeen-year-old Kenna Marsden has a secret.” Retrieved from
  • ISBN: 978-0-374-34137-4
  • Subjects:
    • Paranormal – fiction
    • Horror – fiction
    • Family Conflicts – fiction

Reader’s Annotation: A moment of rage, white hot and justified, changed Kenna’s life forever. A moment of passion and a dry, twisted husk lay where a 10-year boy had stood.
Plot Summary: When she was 10, Kenna Marsden was exposed to just how hideous the world and its inhabitants can be. A stray cat and her kittens, being hidden and cared for by Kenna and her twin sister Erin, is killed by a neighbor boy with a history of cruelty. Kenna catches him later and confronts him as he is about to kill another butterfly in his killing jar. She grabs him and moments later he is dead at her feet.
Years later Kenna arrives home to discover her mother murdered and her twin sister near death, both at the hands of the father of the boy she had killed. He had always believed she had killed his son and had taken his revenge by killing her loved ones before killing her. She kills him and in the process she restores her mother and sister to life. Faced with an impending police investigation, Kenna mother whisks her away to a mysterious town called Eclipse which her mother tells her is where they actually come from and where Kenna can get the help she needs. But is this a refuge or a place of greater danger?
Critical Evaluation: This book has an interesting idea but it is presented in a way that doesn’t feel true or believable if you accept the premises being offered in the story. The character kills another, thoroughly terrible child, and her mother, who knows why this has happened acts as through she broke a plate. She is given vague warnings about never using her ‘power’ again and grows up not using it but also with a distant relationship with her mother who instead of helping her keeps her in the dark about who and what they all are. Her mother’s incomprehensible inaction eventually leads to terrible consequences for Kenna and her mother and sister. All of the holes in the story are result of the writer failing to create believable characters who act in ways that make sense even in a paranormal setting. Some writer of paranormal fiction seem to think the fantastical nature of the story means they don’t have to make sense in regard to how characters react to events or to each other. It is sloppy and disrespectful to write this way not only of the genre but also toward the readers.
Author’s Brief Bio: “Author and screenwriter, Jennifer Bosworth, grew up in a small town where there was nothing to do but read and get into trouble. She did plenty of both, which led her to a career writing about people who get into trouble. Jennifer and her husband recently escaped from Los Angeles and are now hiding out in Portland, Oregon with a couple of long-legged dogs. In her spare time she can be found watching horror movies and dreaming of starting her own hippie commune, where there will be many goats.” Retrieved from
Genre Designation: Horror/Paranormal Juvenile Fiction
Possible Curriculum Links:

  • Mythology

Book Talk Ideas:

  • Have you ever been so angry with someone that you wanted to kill them?

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:

    • Potential Issues
    • Violence between children
    • Murder
    • Cults

Materials Relating to Potential Challenges:


Why this book was selected: I selected this book because it has a cool cover and the story sounded interesting.


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