*Editors note: THE GREEN KANGAROOS was included in our February 2020 "Horror Addiction" package
“The Green Kangaroos” by Jessica McHugh, like any addiction horror, is about feelings. Some authors explore feelings of grief and loss, others explore body horror or the supernatural. McHugh explores desperation, but gives it a twist by exploring it from different perspectives.
“The Green Kangaroos” is a dystopian novel set in 2099 Baltimore. Being local to the Baltimore area myself, it was very easy to imagine it as a place where the “Fat Cats” (rich, elite class) were literally eating the lowly addicts. They were desperate to assert their superiority over the poorest of the poor. What better way to feel superior than to eat their genitals in a lush, classy restaurant? It is easy to imagine a Baltimore with addicts desperate enough to sell their body parts for a fix. They are desperate to escape their reality, where they will never be at the top of the literal food chain. It is bleak, it is depressing and it is an incredibly successful example of how to build empathy within a novel. Expand upon what is already there in society and make it worse, but believably so.
The second way the author explores desperation is through the family of the addict. It becomes clear that the main character’s family has more than just a passing interest in his sobriety. At what point do intentions turn from good to malicious? McHugh explores the fine line between helping someone you love and making yourself look good through performative allyship. This was an interesting take on the family’s perspective in addiction horror. Usually the addict’s family (or lack thereof) plays a critical role in the story, but this is a very original approach.
Lastly, McHugh explores the main character’s desperation. In this story, the main character (Perry) is desperate to get high. What lengths will he go through to get another hit? Perry is not your average sob story. He has an unusual outlook on his predicament and life circumstances. I like that the author did not limit herself to the “addict fighting his demons” storyline. Perry’s story was not sad, in fact there were many places where it was quite funny. I think it added a lot to the book to bring in humor and it speaks to the author’s skill in making the humor actually funny and not cringe worthy or belittling. Perry was a huge jerk, but he was also very likeable. You wanted the best for him, even if his personal best is going down in the blaze of a tire-fueled dumpster fire.
I give “The Green Kangaroos” five stars. It is a fresh take on addiction horror in a variety of ways. The theme of desperation permeates the book on every page, exploring it in different ways. I first read the beginning of this book as a short story in Mark Matthews’ anthology “Garden of Fiends”. There is another short story afterwards, which I loved because it was humorous and allowed my mind to think up what will happen to these characters now that the book is finished. It opened up possibilities I never would have thought of on my own and I love that the author did that. She provided a satisfactory ending while keeping it wide open. To paraphrase the book, it isn’t easy being a Green Kangaroo, but they just keep hopping along.