Monday, March 29, 2010
BR: Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
by Beth Fantaskey
So this book has been around for a while, and I want to say, I think it was on The Story Siren's best books of 2009 post? I'm not sure, but it was one of the "big time" bloggers, ya know? So I requested it at the library around January, never got around to read it (reasons I'll explain below) and then borrowed it again last week. With nothing to do over the weekend, I started it Sunday night and finished it today at school.
Jessica is a normal girl, in a normal town, goes to a normal school, has a normal best friend, and just wants to get through her senior year in high school (with a boy, maybe). Until her plans get screwed up when a mysterious Romanian "exchange student" who claims he is a Vampire interrupts her normal life, and claims Jessica is his long-lost betrothed. Lucius Vladescu is everything you can imagine from "mysterious Romanian student" aka, the typical arrogant, good-at-everything, and extremely attractive boy.
Jessica's got her sights on a different boy though, a 'nice' boy Jake. She doesn't believe in something as irrational as vampires, until she finds out she is caught in the middle of a great war, and maybe, just maybe, she might be developing feelings for Lucius.
Don't worry, the positive-ier review is near the end!
Be prepared, I've got a lot of thoughts about this book swimming in my head. First, my first reaction when I read the title of the book when it was first being released: is this a joke? I mean, is this like a parody of paranormal romance? I couldn't' take it seriously, to be honest, so that's why I didn't read it at first. (I'm sorry!) It's a catchy title and all that, but just didn't make the book as credible.
Secondly, Lucius. I feel bad for that boy, and I really really dislike the name. It reminds me of Lucius Malfoy from Harry Potter, so every time his dark hair is mentioned, I have to remind myself he isn't a blond haired image of Draco Malfoy. You know? When your mind makes those connections, and you have to snap yourself back into 'reality', it gets kind of annoying. Maybe it's just my head. And keeping with names, Antanasia? I disliked the idea of her having a second name that seems like a royal alter ego. Having two names was a thing that I personally found... irritating. It just made Jessica seem less real for some reason. As if she can just pull off her mask and turn into an Antanasia princess vampire. Again, just my opinion.
Thirdly, (bear with me here!) and perhaps the most aggravating part of the book was the "needs-a-name Syndrome" where she becomes completely infatuated/obsessed/"worried" about her precious Luscious Lucius that she completely brushes off her best friend Mindy. Mindy was portrayed quite well, and I actually really enjoyed the scenes she was in (despite being shallow and cookie-cutter), it wasn't like she was a complete idiotic-pest-best-friend (like Vee from Hush, Hush--I could understand why anybody would want to brush her off). She was nice, loyal and everything, but nuh-uh, Lucius comes first! Jessica lies to Mindy basically throughout the book about her vampire-ness, and when Mindy is just fed up and 'gives up' because Jessica gives no explanation about the whole mess, Jessica does nothing to try and repair their friendship. That is, apart from moaning about it when Mindy doesn't come to her b-day... oh poor baby. Please, protagonists, remember you used to have...friends! Not just the boy toy.
Fourthly, I didn't think the romance seemed genuine. I liked Jessica's attitude at the beginning, and didn't even mind Lucius' actions of over protectiveness and "you-belong-with-meeee" (unlike my feelings about Keenan from Wicked Lovely). I thought their interactions were funny, and admired Jessica's will. But when she started developing feelings for him, it felt a bit like teen crushes again, I'm not sure whether it was because I thought it could have been developed more, or if she just didn't have as sound reasoning behind it as I hoped there would be. Especially all those "I love you" scenes at the end, didn't really work for me.
Fifthly, I hate to say this, but apart from Jessica, the characters lacked originality. They seemed cookie-cutter like, for example: Lucius- what else but brooding, mysterious, chivalrous, medieval -like, handsome, impeccable manners, smart, and incredibly hot? Does that not sound familiar, like all those other love interests in all those other paranormal romance books. Although I do give him brownie points for not being angsty and "omg I am a horrible person...you deserve better than me" attitude, that is, until the end.
Mindy (while I adored her) was the stereotype with a twist: she was an awesome best friend, read those gossip/fashion magazines, loved shopping, loud, rambunctious, and boy obsessed. Twist? She's likable and actually in the picture (until, again, the end).
Her parents weren't anything special, but were always there for her, so I guess they were good. But then Jake, who was severely underdevloped, was only described as 'nice', and I never really felt he had any connection with Jessica apart from his looks.
Faith is another sterotypical character: the blond cheerleader antagonist. God, why is there always one? The slutty, mean, bitchy girl who is popular. And drools after Lucius as well....sound familiar?
Okay, on to the good things!!
I loved the writing style. Jessica's voice is definitely very clear, refreshing, and both funny and interesting. It was a pleasure reading about her thoughts, it wasn't all angst-angst-angst!! The turmoil in her head when she dealt with her feelings regarding being a vampire, and about the boys is well written, and I thought her confusion was well warranted.
I loved Lucius' letters to his uncle. They were so funny, with the type of word choices that reminds me of my friend. One of those "use 7 words even though 3 will do" type of people, and using thesaurus words with style! Very fun to read, especially about squatty boy!
And despite Lucius being unoriginal, I was a fan. Maybe not a rabid fan, but I got fond of him by the end, and admired his efforts to keep Jessica safe.
I LOVED the guidebook that is given to her, "Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions." It made me giggle when she first saw it, just a funny name. I love how when it was read, it almost felt like a brochure, all happy and lively with exclamation marks!!! and it just generally sounded funny. Loved the idea (and the title!)
Lastly, the plot was admirable. Unique take on vampires, but I do wish there were a bit more plot twists. Like a good guy is actually a spy or something, but nope. Pretty straight forward, but good nonetheless. I thought the plot started escalating, and definitely became more and more interesting (especially when the vamps arrived) towards the end, and to my surprise, I enjoyed the climax.
I know it seems as if I really tore into this book, but I just want to say, those were just my little nitpicks, and this book just had a lot of them I could rant about. However, despite all my negative thoughts about certain aspects, I thought the book was actually a very good read. Fantaskey really tied everything together well with a great protagonist, Jessica, and excellent writing! It had action, romance, and a strong-willed girl, a great combination if I do say so myself.
8.7/10 - because despite the things I disliked, I liked the overall book quite a bit. Enjoyable writing, protagonist, and plot really made the book enjoyable. Please don't think that I am a book-hater because I wrote some negative thoughts, they are MY PERSONAL OPINIONS, and I don't mean to offend anyone. I would recommend this book to people who like: vampires, paranormal romance, light reads, funny reads, and books with strong protagonists who can still be nice!!