Title: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side
Author: Beth Fantaskey
Length: 354 pages
My star rating: ★ ★ ★
Jessica Packwood is looking forward to her senior year at Woodrow Wilson High School until she discovers that her parents are hosting a foreign exchange student–and not just any foreign exchange student, but Lucius Vladelcu, a rich Romanian boy who claims that he is a vampire prince. Worse, Jessica learns that not only was she adopted: she’s really Antanasia Dragomir, a vampire princess, and that she and Lucius were betrothed as babies. Rational Jessica refuses to believe that vampires exist and resists her so-called destiny, and Lucius revels in the temporary freedom that being a teenager in America affords him.
This little novel is very fun and tongue-in-cheek. Beth Fantaskey sounds like she was having a good time writing it. The first half of the book was excellent, and I could hardly put it down. Jessica’s voice is pretty fun. Lucius is downright hilarious at times. (“I have sampled eternity in Miss Campbell’s fifth period ‘social studies’ class. Three days on the concept of ‘manifest destiny,’ Vasile. THREE DAYS. I yearned to stand up, rip her lecture notes from her pallid hands, and scream, ‘Yes, America expanded westward! Is that not logical, given that Europeans settled on the eastern shore? What else were they do to? Advance into the sea?'”)
Unfortunately, Fantaskey indulges herself and the story becomes more and more serious as the book wears on. As Jessica begins falling for Lucius, we get not only predictable teen angst and melodrama (llamas), but also plot twists involving political intrigue that–though they do give the book a bit more of a plot–seem too weighty for a light-hearted parody like this one.
Characters like Lucius usually annoy me, but he came off as more charming than I initially expected given his
regal snobby, holier-than-thou/spoiled-rich-kid demeanor.
My main complaints are about Jessica’s character development–or more like her abrupt transformation–and the minor characters, namely her unrealistic mother, flaky “best friend,” and ham-handed bullies. Oh, and the details she lifted whole out of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series (born-not-made vampires; vampire royalty; the last Dragomir princess; etc.)
Still, I was cheering for Jessica for the most part, and there were some moments of genuine sweetness and romance mixed in with the drama. It was a fun, quick, light read, and what more can you really ask for?