Wednesday, May 13, 2009

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

First published in 2009.

Enter a bizarre new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu who claims Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth and he's her long-lost fiance. He's arrogant, officious, embarrassingly overprotective, and, well, incredibly hot.

Armed with a copy of
Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health and Emotions, Jessica tries to imagine the transition from an average American teenager to a glam European vampire princess. But just when things start to heat up with Lucius, a devious cheerleader sets her sights on him.

Soon Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vam
pire war - and save Lucius's soul from eternal damnation. All of which leaves her to wonder: Wouldn't life be easier if she could just fall for a nice mortal boy? (book flap blurb)

Go read. Nao. Nao. Why are you still reading? Go buy. Nao. Dammit, you're still here? Nao? I guess I better do the review then, huh?

Ok, so the first editorial review I read of this book was on and it's a Kirkus review. The first sentence states, "Populated with thoroughly flat characters, this vampire romance, despite charming moments, makes Twilight look like a feminist handbook." To which I go, O_o. Huh? To further discredit the review, the reviewer (who is anonymous) goes on to reference Lucius as Lucien and states a female vampire must be bitten at puberty in order to be turned into a vampire. Um, no. It's Lucius and it's 18. Here's a hint to all you reviewers out there: if you're going to give a review, especially a bad one, and want to maintain your credibility, you might want to get the book's facts straight. The review also puts the book for ages 12 to 14. Wha? So yeah, Jessica would so trample Stella Crow with her horse, Belle. I kept trying to find any kind of substantiating evidence that would somehow spit on feminism in this book and while it had it's moments, to say it made Twilight look like a feminist handbook is going so far out of the way to insult that you're going to need to reprogram your GPS to find your way back.

Jessica is a very logic-minded girl, almost to the point of being pig-headed. If it exists in her real world, then it's fine by her. When Lucius shows up, he kind of dashes her logic right out of the mythical window. And damn is he funny doing it! The short insights into Lucius's head with his letters are absolutely hilarious. Oh how he mocks lentils! He's so snotty and arrogant and he just doesn't quite know what to do with himself now that he finds himself on a vegan farm. Other than protect Jessica from high school assholes. Which she abhors him doing and is sincere about it too.

It gets to a point where it's maddeningly frustrating for Jessica not to admit to herself what's going on until she finally starts to and then everything starts to slip away. There definitely is a "too late" moment going on that only drove me further and faster to keep reading to see what the resolution would be. I think the dynamic that was built up, though, between Jessica, Lucius and Faith, has happened to all of us at one point or another. Someone pursues us, we kind of go "eh" although there could be potential but when we finally get to coming around, that interest has moved on and we're left going, "um, hello?" It's infuriating to read it happen, especially who it's happening with.

Yes, there are some similarities to Twilight. What I saw? The couple of times that Jessica claims she loves Lucius deeply and doesn't want to live with the pain of losing him. Yeah, that's also a Romeo and Juliet thing too, not to mention a slew of other romance reads but considering Twilight's popularity, and the book's vampire/human romance, the comparison was bound to be made. But that's pretty much where the similarities stop. Hate to break it to the Twihards but Stephenie Meyer didn't invent the star cross'd vampire lovers. Hard pill to swallow, I know, but a pill nonetheless.

Where Bella is a weak, simpering little turd that excelled at nothing, didn't have a self of her own and could only stand on her own two feet with the support of Edward, Jessica was very much her own person with her own ideals, her own thoughts and lo! We were in her head the whole time and and lo! Minimal complaining! And it wasn't anywhere near insufferable! She also didn't comment on how hot Lucius was every freaking nanosecond. Yay! Jessica had her own life, was capable of functioning on her own, had goals. Did that all kind of crumble? To an extent, yeah. Here she thought she was this normal girl until this arrogant schmuck guy shows up and tells her she's a vampire princess that's destined to marry him in order to end a centuries-long vampire war. After getting over the absolute insanity of that and realizing it's real, how would your life shape after that? Especially if you started to fall in love with said cranky Romanian guy? Love does funny things to your head but she didn't push anyone away. People pushed her away because of the rumors that were spread about her. She didn't want to be alone. She was miserable to be alone. She wanted Mindy and Jake back in her life but they wouldn't go near her because of ignorance. And then there's Lucius. To say the shit hit the fan towards the end of this book is an understatement. That senior year really did suck. Badly.

The only injustice I saw in this book was the title. It's probably one of the most unfitting titles I've ever seen in a book. And the emphasis on the vampire dating guide. It was mentioned a handful of times, most of them in passing. It certainly wasn't central to the book but from all the blurbs, you'd think it was. Jessica's Guide to Staking Senior Year would have been a better, and more pertinent, title. I'm not really sure what the aim was there but it just doesn't fit with the story.

All in all, an absolutely amazing book and I'm so glad I went nutball over it when I saw the review on Publisher's Weekly back in January. Smart I was to listen to my gut! Fantaskey has an amazing knack for being able to propel the reader from one end of the book to the other in a compelling, intricate and well-written story. This is what a turmoil-ridden teen vampire romance should read like. There's depth, individuality and realism all mixed into this fantasy world. Jessica is real. Her reactions are believable. Her actions are believable and her emotions can be felt through the pages. I laughed out loud, my eyes watered and I just didn't want it to end.

But it did. Rather abruptly. Please tell me there's going to be a sequel. Beth? A little help?


prophecygirl said...

Great review Donna! I loved this book so very much. Beth said she doesn't know about a sequel yet. I want one though!

robin_titan said...

Yay!! I'm so glad you loved it too :D
I kinda want a sequel too but then I'm not sure sure b/c sequels tend to be ..bleh I'm still anxious to read Beth Fantaskey's next book. :D

Miss Cindy said...

Just the book blurb had me hooked, but after reading your review, I definitely need to pick it up. Thanks for sharing!

Steph Su said...

I'm SO glad you loved this book, because I wholeheartedly agree! But, uh, Kirkus Reviewer? Calling Twilight a FEMINIST HANDBOOK in comparison to this? What the hell does that even mean, and how is that even fathomable? Sigh. Ah well. I dunno.

Donna said...


Yeah, this book was definitely love. I'd like a sequel just to see Jessica try to adjust to the whole vampire world. The book ended just after she was bitten, on a high from it all. That high's gotta wear off sooner or later!

Jen said...

I havent read this yet, but I cant picture something making Twilight look like a feminist handbook, but vampire stuff seems to get that a lot ^_^ And if you like it, I trust you ^_^

Donna said...

Thanks, Jen! Yeah, I would definitely recommend this one!

Kristen said...

This book sounds so good! Thank you for reviewing it. I love vampire books with a strong female character. I just read one you might enjoy called Forbidden: The Temptation. Samantha Sommersby’s Forbidden universe rocks with sexy vampires, wildly irreverent weres, and sassy kick-butt heroines. See if you like it!

kim said...

I really loved this book too. This was such a thorough review, very well thought out :) I think she does have another one coming out but not sure if it's a sequel.

House of Night said...

i just loved this book!!! it was one of my favorites.......... i really hope theres a sequal.

Anonymous said...

I REALLY want a sequel!!!!

Dating said...

This book sounds so good! Thank you for reviewing it. said...

found you via your contest, via the crazy for books book hop. Blogging is a small town. Liked this review, esp. the feminist vs twilight take.

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