Monday, November 26, 2012

Review: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey

Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1)
By Beth Fantaskey
Publisher:
Harcourt

To Sum It Up:

Jessica Packwood receives the surprise of her life when the Romanian vampire prince she’s been betrothed to since birth turns up in her rural Pennsylvania town. Jessica is a vampire, too, the biological daughter of vampire royalty. There’s even a guidebook called Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions to help her adjust to this shocking news. Despite both the book and her fiancĂ© Lucius’s determined efforts to convince his future wife to accept her destiny, Jessica wants no part of his world. But she may have no choice but to join it when she learns that she is the key to averting a war between her and Lucius’s families.

Review:

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is a solid take on the ubiquitous subject of teenage vampires. Although it doesn’t add anything particularly groundbreaking to the topic, I liked the sort of culture shock (species shock might be a better way to describe it) that both Jessica and her prince-to-be, Lucius Vladescu, both experience. She has to absorb the fact that she’s a vampire; he has to adapt to living among American humans as he tries to woo the girl he’s always known he would marry. It’s a really awkward situation, what with Lucius posing as a foreign exchange student at Jessica’s school and staying with her family, and the ensuing hilarity is one of the highlights of the book.

Poor logical Jessica, a self-described “mathlete,” just can’t wrap her head around the revelation that she’s a vampire, and a royal one at that. I thought she was okay as a heroine; she wasn’t overly memorable, but she did grow more confident as the story went along. While I didn’t think that she should have dropped everything to run off with Lucius when he first came crashing into her life like a ballistic missile, I wasn’t crazy about her deciding that she wanted to be with him once he turned his attention elsewhere. Jessica redeems herself in the end, though, so I do give her credit for finding the courage to face danger head-on.

I couldn’t help but love Lucius; to me, he stole the show. His letters to his uncle Vasile back in Romania, containing Lucius’s less than flattering observations on American culture, are a riot. Lucius is one haughty vampire, but there’s actually a good guy beneath that snooty exterior. The bond that he forms with Jessica’s adoptive parents, who treat him like family, is very sweet. I think readers’ opinions of him will depend on how tolerant they are of snarky, arrogant vampire princes. I happen to be highly tolerant of them, so I didn’t have a problem with him until he started getting chummy with mean girl Faith Crosse, Jessica’s archenemy. This development really put a damper on my enjoyment of the book; by this point, I just wanted Jessica and Lucius to get together and live happily ever after already. Instead, the story became progressively darker in tone, which in itself I didn’t mind, but the shift from the lighter mood of the previous chapters seemed rather abrupt.

Despite a few flaws, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side proves that there’s still plenty of mileage left in vampire-centric stories. Beth Fantaskey excels at writing humor, which helps to set this book apart from its peers. I’d read a collection of Lucius’s letters in a heartbeat if it were available.

All in All:

This was a pretty creative variation on the typical YA vampire novel. It does falter in a handful of places, but on the whole, the book is an entertaining, and often amusing, read.

Favorite Quotes:

“The Packwoods have been kind enough to supply me with a TV out here in my backyard exile, to which I can only reply with the Americanism 'Whoopee.'”—Lucius, Chapter 7

“Can I ever again be happy in our soaring Gothic castle after walking the halls of Woodrow Wilson High School, a literal ode to linoleum?”—Lucius, Chapter 7

12 comments:

  1. Lucius is such a fun character, isn't he? His letters really made me laugh as well! Great review! :)

    Lyra @ Defiantly Deviant

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    1. I looked forward to reading them; I just found his disdain hilarious!

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  2. This one made me laugh and I remember really liking L's character too.
    Happy reading,
    Brandi from Blkosiner’s Book Blog

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    1. What can I say? I have a soft spot for arrogant fictional guys; I blame Mr. Darcy for it, lol.

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  3. Great review, Lee! I've often wondered if I should read this and it does sound fun, despite the odd change in tone towards the end. Also, I agree, that there can still be good vamp books these days, as long as they add something new :D

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    1. I'm always happy when I find a vampire book that offers its own twist and isn't a blatant Twilight copycat. They're sometimes a little hard to find, and I have to thank Goodreads for recommending this one to me.

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  4. I liked this book, it was sweet, and fun. Lucius was a very entertaining character, and yes, the letters were just hilarious.
    Great review!

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    1. Reading the letters made me want to read the whole book, or at least maybe alternating chapters, from his perspective. That would have been great!

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  5. I keep hearing what a cute, fun take on vampires this is! And since those are my favorite paranormal novels (no emo angst for me, thanksverymuch), I might have to seriously think about picking this series up.

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    1. Most of the book has a lighthearted feel to it, but things do take a bit of angsty turn for a while. I could have done without it, especially since the book got off to such a solid, humorous beginning.

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  6. I haven't read this but the blurb is kinda like a tern version of that Meg Cabot series, insatiable ... or maybe its just me LOL

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    1. Insatiable sounds familiar- I think someone in the family may have read it. Going to have to interrogate everyone now because I'm curious if there is a resemblance to Jessica's Guide, lol.

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