I spied "Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side" at B&N a few weeks back when I was browsing with the kids. I didn't pick it up, or read the blurbs, but when I saw it at the Library I went ahead and checked it out.
Author Beth Fantaskey's debut YA novel is going to make a lot of teen girls very happy. Although, I wonder if a few of them won't scratch their heads at the mismatched title and tone of the book. The title makes the book sound like a light hearted, frothy teen romance. Which, are fun to read every now and then, as you can just let you brain soak in the silliness. The plot of this book, however, isn't very silly or frothy. The title is a play on words for a book that our heroine is given by her 'betrothed' so she can carefully navigate becoming a vampire.
It seems that Jessica, whose real name is Antanasia, is a Romanian vampire princess betrothed in infancy to the rival vampire clan's prince in order to forge a peace deal between the waring factions. When Jessica's vampire parents are killed, she is sent to live in the U.S. with the anthropologists studying the vampires and is out of that culture for 17 years. Lucius Vladescu, in all his European royal hotness, shows up one day to claim his bride. Jessica wants none of it...well, at first. Even though she doesn't want to, Jessica falls for Lucius, her inner vampiness just can't resist him.
The conflicting tones in this story set my 'fangs' on edge. On one hand we have girls drooling over the new boy in class. On the other hand we have abusive family relationships, teens responsible for the safety of their families, and a conclusion that left me with a frown on my face. I won't spoil it for you in case you pick the book up and read it. The book does do a nice job of not falling victim to the you have to be blonde, skinny and a cheerleader with straight hair to be happy theme. Jessica is a strong girl, smart and resourceful. The dialogue reads well and it sounds genuine. The plot moves at a good clip, no sagging middle or unnecessary scenes.
But my problem is that the book feels like two possible stories melded into one. A light hearted dating romp with a paranormal twist haphazardly blended together with a rival clan damaged star crossed lovers tale.
I'd read another book by this gal, but I'd like to send a wet noodle to whoever gave the book its title.