Friday, March 30, 2012

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

Title: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
Author: Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt
Release Date: Feb 1st, 2009
Rating: 2/5

Cover Impressions: The cover is cute but nothing special.  It falls into the cliche of pretty girl in a pretty dress.  If you read my reviews, you know that I prefer the cover to accurately reflect the character and this model is NOT the size 10 that Jessica claims to be.  In the book we watch Jessica grow to accept her curves and curly hair as signs of beauty, strength and having "a presence in the world" yet, the cover features the typical slim young girl - such a shame.

The Gist:  Jessica's has always known she was adopted from Romania but when the dark and mysterious Lucius waltzes into town claiming not only to be her betrothed but also, a vampire, she is forced to examine just how strange her heritage might be.  As Jessica grows to accept the dark past of her parents and the strange new urges of her body, she realizes that if she does not become the princess her family needs, she may lose the future that she never knew she wanted.

Review:  I found this book on the Bargain Shelf at my local book store and thought that it might be a good fit for some of the girly girls in my classes.  Because I picked up this book knowing that it was not to my taste, I was fairly forgiving while reading it.  Jessica's Guide falls into the category of "fluff", it was a quick, fairly entertaining read that did not require much brainpower.  It is not a particularly unique story (we have all read these "oh surprise I'm actually a princess" stories before and it makes use of several cliches in its 300+ pages.  
Jessica is presented as an overweight Math nerd with self-esteem issues.  Naturally, with encouragement from Lucius, she transforms into the confident and poised Princess that she was meant to be (actually she puts on a pretty dress and stops straightening her hair).  I was NOT happy that, as she began her "transformation" her math skills suffered.  What the heck Fantaskey? Can't she be pretty AND smart?  Of course, her competition was slim, blonde and (say it with me now) A CHEERLEADER!  And she was named, wait for it ....... Faith Crosse.  Seriously? In a book about Vampires you combine the words Faith AND Cross?
There was some attempt at a love triangle (though poor Jake didn't really stand a chance) that pitted the sweet, honest farm boy against the dark and dangerous vampire.  Just once, I would like to see a heroine actually choose the nice guy, come on girls, the nice guy will bring you soup and tissues when you are sick.  The bad boy will take one look at your puffy eyes and snotty nose and run in the opposite direction.  The nice guy will not understand when you sob uncontrollably, clutching The Fault In Our Stars to your chest unwilling to read another page for fear of more heartbreak, but he will hold your hand and try to make you feel better by cracking lame jokes.  The bad boy will not even be there to see your pain because he doesn't think a chick who reads is sexy.  The nice guy will be there when your best friend moves away, when your Dad gets sick or your childhood puppy passes away.  The bad boy will be off finding some other pretty young thing who he can seduce with his recipe of aloofness, brooding and danger.
Of course, Lucius is the typical literary bad boy who can be rescued from the brink of self destruction by his "true love", a woman who is not willing to give up on him, no matter what heinous acts he commits.  Again, ladies, put this particular brand of bad boy in the same category as unicorns, dragons and hairdressers that think 1inch = 1inch - they don't exist!

The writing itself was mediocre, but the sections featuring Lucius' letters were cringe-worthy.  His use of local colloquialisms were laughable and the constant reminders that his uncle hits him left me annoyed rather than appalled.  The plot was quick, if predictable, and I know this will appeal to those students who enjoy the the Pretty Little Liars series.   This is one of those YA novels that doesn't quite translate to an adult audience but would probably be a very enjoyable (and perhaps forgettable) read for many teenagers. 

Teaching/Parental Notes:
Age: 13 and up
Gender: Girls
Sex: Mentioned by several characters but not actually written about
Violence: Blood drinking, a beating, a staking, reference to child abuse
Inappropriate Language: None
Substance Abuse: None


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