Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side – Beth Fantaskey
Categories: YA | Romance | Vampires | Arranged Marriages
Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica’s senior year “get-a-life” plan.
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 fiancé. 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 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 vampire 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?
When I first heard the title of the book a long time ago, I immediately labeled it as a frivolous read… a light and frothy “Anne-Rice-meets-Meg-Cabot” sort of thing. Let me set the record straight: it’s not. Don’t make the same mistake that I did and judge this book by its (admittedly dazzling) cover – it’s far from the cotton-candy romance that the title suggests.
Instead, what you get is a dark, deep, yet realistic romance that grows out of initial disdain. It’s about two people who belong together but can’t stand each other, and slowly learn to accept their destiny. It’s a rare thing for teen books to display a levelheaded set of characters that show how real destinies are made, and are not written in stone.
If I were Beth Fantaskey, I’d probably be ready to scream at the idea of one more comparison to Twilight, so I’ll get that out of the way quickly – Lucius and Jessica are definitely no Edward and Bella. They are real, and have pragmatic thought processes, with none of the unhealthy/creepy tendencies. The one time that Lucius walks into Jessica’s room without her knowing, she is understandably creeped out and yells at him for it, instead of being flattered (I cannot even express how relieved I was to read that, more than anything.) She’s oblivious to the charm he oozes and to his enigmatic personality.
PLUS, she’s a farm girl. You gotta love a girl who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty.
And oh, for all fans of Bit Lit, I have more good news – there are fangs.
Lucius is one of the most self-assured characters written for teens, despite his rough background and upbringing. He’s a guy who doesn’t doubt himself, doesn’t fight his nature, and definitely doesn’t belittle or demean Jessica in any way. Observe:
“Jess. For God’s sake,” [Lucius] said. “Allow me to do at least one common courtesy for you. In spite of what ‘women’s lib’ teaches you, chivalry does not imply that women are powerless. On the contrary, chivalry is an admission of women’s superiority. An acknowledgment of your power over us. This is the only form of servitude a Vladescu ever practices, and I perform it gladly for you. You, in return, are obligated to accept graciously.”
How hot is that? Best argument in favor of chivalry ever. I have officially lowered my feminist weapons for good. (Except not really, but he got close).
Moreover, we’re never left wondering what Lucius might be thinking. He’s not overly mysterious or broody, thank God. You’ll especially love his letters to his uncle back home in Romania – I was laughing out loud through all of them. Beth Fantaskey has done an amazing job putting herself in the head of a foreign kid seeing life in an American high school for the first time, and guiding us through his unique adjustment to (and begrudging acceptance of) his new surroundings.
My only complaint with this was the numerous loose ends at the end – the sudden disappearance of Jessica’s parents, her best friend Mindy and other assorted characters… we’re left wondering whatever happened to them. And there’s a very big argument in favor of seeing more of Jessica and how she blooms after the events of this book. It basically necessitates a sequel.
But for that to happen, you need to buy the book and read it. Just ignore the title – you will NOT be disappointed.
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side is out in stores now, so go grab your copy today!