Friday, August 28, 2009

Review - Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)
by Beth Fantaskey
Date: 2009
Publisher: Harcourt
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 351
Format: hardcover
Source: Indigo

The undead can really screw up your senior year...

Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancĂ©. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

Yes! Finally a paranormal romance that doesn't make me want to hurl the book across the room in disgust. Took me long enough to find one...

Jessica Packwood is a seemingly ordinary teenager living in rural Pennsylvania with her quirky vegan parents. But the arrival of a mysterious "exchange student" from Romania turns her life upside-down. Lucius Vladescu is intelligent, arrogant, imperious... and a vampire. Even worse, he claims that Jessica is a vampire princess, that they have been betrothed to each other since infancy, and that if their pact isn't fulfilled with their marriage, their families will go to war. Jessica suddenly has a lot more to worry about during her senior year than final exams!

I actually heard about this book from my mom, who'd heard the title in a TV segment on good books for teens. The title was immediately intriguing, and when I looked around a little more, I found mostly favourable reviews. I was worried that I might be in for another Twilight copycat, but I didn't really need to be concerned. Fantaskey's vampires are about as different from Meyer's as you can get. And that, for me, was part of what made the book work.

The characters are strong -- even the minor ones (I loved the vampire Dorin, with his striped mittens and affinity for specialty coffees). The story is told from Jessica's point of view (first person), and we do get a good feel for who she is. Through her eyes, we also get to know Lucius (whose name means "light"... how deliciously ironic), who, though he is mysterious, can't help but wear some of his emotions on his sleeve. He also has vulnerabilities, which is refreshing in a world of vampires and immortals who are difficult (if not downright impossible) to kill; where's the suspense if there's no kryptonite for your Superman? Fantaskey's vampires seem more like an offshoot of humanity rather than an entirely different species, which is perfectly okay. It works here.

My complaints with this book were few. First, nobody ever "said" anything. The speech attributions were kind of crazy. I'm not sure how someone "shudders" a sentence, for example. But it didn't bother me as much as it might have, partly because this seemed to fit with the way Jessica might talk (after all, she was a math whiz... not a grammar freak). My only other complaint was with the pacing. It seemed a little off to me, with some of the more exciting moments coming earlier in the story. The climax and resolution, while satisfying, seemed a little rushed.

Overall, though, this is a fun read for fans of YA paranormal romance. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to teens who love a good vampire tale.

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 5/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 4/5
Originality: 4/5

Overall: 4 out of 5


  1. Wow. Sounds great.

    Don't tell anyone but I think I'm taking a temporary break from vamps and angry fairies.

    Have an amazing weekend.

  2. PS
    I love the way you write. It has me secretly wondering how old you are.

  3. This isn't my thing really, but I am interested to know of vamp fiction that is better than Twilight, especially characters. Gives me hope for my baby girl's future reading. :)

  4. Such a wonderful review! I have been meaning to pick this one up but for some reason or another, it hasn't happened. Now, I want to read it even more. :) Thanks!

  5. Good review, I agree. I thought the ending was a little rushed as well. Personally, I think it should have ended when Dorin showed up and told her Lucious was alive. Then in book two Jessica could have gone to Romania and really taken on her role and won Lucious back. Owell. =)

  6. I haven't picked this one up yet, mainly because (like you mentioned) I was afraid it would be another Twilight rip-off, or worse. But your review's convinced me to add it to my reading pile. Thanks!