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Poppy Palladino lives in the quaint Vermont town of Paraffin, a town best known for the Grosholtz Candle Factory. The town lingers beneath a smog of artificial scents, ranging from Ocean Breeze to New Car Scent; and everyone in town knows the quirky and fastidious Poppy, always a hard worker --- to a fault. She is, after all, not like other girls: she and her best friend, Jill, pride themselves in being different, in being unique, and most of all, in being themselves.

Not all is as it seems in Paraffin, though, especially when it comes to the old Groscholtz Candle Factory, the major source of income for many of the town’s residents and the only tourist attraction the town has to offer. One night, Jill and Poppy decide to take a tour of the old factory, where they learn that the company is on the brink of releasing a new, revolutionary kind of candle --- a kind of candle that has an individualized scent, just for the buyer. Uneasy and, admittedly, weirded out by the Factory’s newest get-rich-quick scheme, Poppy meanders away from the tour, only to find herself in a room filled with wax figurines...and after making her grand escape, she discovers --- to her dismay --- that she has a stowaway: a boy, no older than she, made entirely of wax.

"WAX is full of all the clever twists and turns that Damico fans have come to expect and love, along with Damico’s special brand of wry humor…a rare, beautiful book that will leave you wanting more."

Gina Damico writes many things beautifully and with the careful precision, love and care of a well-seasoned fiction and fanfiction author, but the way she crafts her characters is nothing short of awe-inspiring. She can take a character who is so obviously, so painfully a Mary Sue in the flesh, a character so insufferable who knows and believes they are --- in a word --- perfect, a character so monumentally obnoxious and unbearable, that the reader can’t help but fall head over heels in love with them.

Damico does not fall short of expectations in her latest standalone novel, WAX. The character of Poppy Palladino takes all the wit and flippancy from Lex Bartleby (of Damico's previous works, CROAK, SCORCH and ROGUE), all the gawky self-consciousness with a bleeding heart from Max Kilgore (HELLHOLE), and adds the perfect dash of what it’s like to be a bonafide Mary Sue to make Poppy Damico’s best character yet.

Although there is some strong language in WAX and some intense themes and motifs, WAX is best suited for readers aged 13 and beyond, or late middle grade and beyond. This is not necessarily a book with a happy ending, where everything is tied up neat and nice and the main characters go home at the end to never speak of the incident again --- quite the contrary. Damico, just as with her other books, makes a point to let readers know that even after the last page is turned, the story is still ongoing.

WAX is full of all the clever twists and turns that Damico fans have come to expect and love, along with Damico’s special brand of wry humor. The book is often laugh-out-loud funny, drawing on pop culture references and the kind of written language that young adult readers will know and recognize and connect with. This is one of Damico’s strongest points as an author: she has managed to beautifully capture the tone and style of the way young adult people write and read, and has transformed these specific quirks and jokes into her own unique style. Despite the fact that WAX is very clearly a Damico novel, it does not lean on HELLHOLE or the Croak Trilogy; WAX carves out its own niche in a truly artful way, demonstrating, again, that Damico is a young adult author worth looking out for. WAX is a rare, beautiful book that will leave you wanting more.

Reviewed by Adrian Meyers on August 12, 2016

by Gina Damico