Saturday, May 30, 2009

REVIEW: Jessica's Guide to Dating On the Dark Side

My annual summer read-a-palooza has begun, and I kicked it off with a wonderful YA novel by Beth Fantaskey, Jessica's Guide to Dating On the Darkside. If you think the title sounds absolutely adorable, you're right. It sucked me in as I passed the release on an end-cap at the book store.

I wasn't sorry.

Too many readers who only think they know YA are missing out on books like Fantaskey's, assuming this is a Stephanie Meyer knock-off. More closely wed to better books like the House of Night series and other, lighter books with a teen-vampire theme, Jessica's Guide is brighter, lighter reading with deftly handled, age-appropriate humor. In many ways it could be seen as a direct opposite of the Twilight series, with great messages about body image, self acceptance, and confidence.

Fantaskey's novel opens at a desolate bus stop in rural Pennsylvania, where young Jessica Packwood notices a mysterious figure watching her. Jessica, who was born Antanasia Dragomir in Romania, soon discovers that she was born a vampire princess. Though she has been happy to live in obscurity with her adopted family in America, her destiny has come home to roost. Her parents confirm the wild tale that emerges: she was a vampire princess, and Lucius Vladescu-- the arrogant, pushy exchange student who claims to be her long lost fiance-- is. Now what? How can she possibly love this domineering twerp who sucks blood? She's a vegan, for crying out loud.

Fantaskey's teens sound like actual teens. Her Jessica responds to the pressures of her new found royalty, bossy fiance, and the possibility of an actual war with very believable wit, angst, and impressive common sense. The clever "guide book" angle works beautifully. I found the romance in this sly, smart book took a second seat to Jessica's growth as a person. She faces her senior year and the bizarre new pressures with her trusty copy of Growing up Undead: A Teen Vampire's Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, deftly handling what has become, too often, a phoned in theme for teens.

Brava! What a great way to kick off my summer reading season.


  1. I enjoyed this book, too. I consider it the best vampire romance I've read since Twilight. What I liked about it was how it moves from being light and funny at the opening of the book, then becomes something darker, more mysterious by the end. And Jessica's romance was so realistic, reminding me of how teen loves evolve toward more mature love. Very satisfying!

  2. Ooooooh this sounds REALLY good! I so have to pick it up!!

  3. This looks great. What's next on the reading schedule? I'm reading vicariously, lol.

  4. Amanda Brice1:04 PM

    Sounds really fun!