Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Jessica #1), by Beth Fantaskey
If I were a movie, what would I be rated? PG-13
Any spoilers in this review? Yes.
Summary: Marrying a vampire definitely doesn’t fit into Jessica Packwood’s senior year “get-a-life” plan. But then a bizarre (and incredibly hot) new exchange student named Lucius Vladescu shows up, claiming that Jessica is a Romanian vampire princess by birth—and he’s her long-lost fiancé. Armed with newfound confidence and a copy of Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions, Jessica makes a dramatic transition from average American teenager to glam European vampire princess. But when a devious cheerleader sets her sights on Lucius, Jess finds herself fighting to win back her wayward prince, stop a global vampire war—and save Lucius’s soul from eternal destruction.
It wasn’t really my intention to read this book again. See, I remember this book. I remember liking it a lot when I was younger, gobbling it up and reading it with guilty pleasure. Probably because it was paranormal. I remembered a rich romance and lots of wittiness. I ran across it in a used book store and I bought it because of nostalgia mostly.
A couple days after buying it, I got an irresistible urge to read it about 30 minutes before midnight. You may see where this is going.
Anyway, I had to get up at 6:15 for work and finished reading around 3 a.m. The problem was that it was a very easy read and the chapters were short. It was far too easy to say, “One more chapter…” And so, there you go, I read it. I hadn’t even intended to.
So. That happened. Now, onward.
The writing was eh. The characters were all a bit… flat, if strikingly realistic for a teenager at times. I liked how Jess clung to her facts and science and had a brain for it. I didn’t like how cliche the other supporting characters were. You have the Witch Cheerleader, Jess’ rival. The ultimately flat hick character: sweet, handsome, and no match for the bad boy love interest. The somewhat ditzy best friend who was literally there at one point just to help Jess get ready for a dance. They were all… eh. Lucius was cliche was well. In the beginning when you met him, he was rather over the top with his accent and his overbearing conceit. That disappeared rather quickly to make him more palatable. And by palatable, I mean cliche.
Now, the plot was interesting. If you peel away the YA romance and look at what the plot actually could’ve been… you get duty vs freedom. Lucius was influenced by American culture while visiting and that was an interesting aspect. His letters certainly drove it home and the book would’ve been a lot worse if we didn’t have his letters to read.
It came down to this: do you have a duty to do something you have no choice in? To stop a war that might technically break out? Do you marry to fulfill an engagement you never had a choice in, or do you let the adults figure out how to end a possible future war without forcing you, their offspring, to marry?
Now, I’m sure women and men suffered with this question way back then, with politics being what they were, but it’s an interesting concept today in our individualist culture, isn’t it?
In the end, Lucius fell for Jess and got self-destructive when he realized he loved her enough not to force her into a marriage that might ultimately kill her. Having made that decision, he left a future war to possibly happen and countless lives to be lost, but Jess free of him.
And then Jess wanted to fulfill the engagement, because she realized she loved him. And that’s the entire reason I think the book went downhill for me. She wasn’t doing it to be self-sacrificing or to save countless innocent vampire and human lives if a war broke out. She wasn’t doing it because she wanted to change the backward sounding—Lucius had quite the abusive childhood—vampire world and better it. She didn’t do it because she thought she would be a good ruler, even with no training. She did it because she realized she wanted to marry Lucius and actually loved him. Not because of what was at stake. (Ha. Stake. Because vampires? Sorry.)
Now, I understand that Lucius figured out the Real Plot and that’s also why he didn’t want to marry her. This is a noble enough reason not to marry her. But… there was a potential for an interesting, lovely little political twist where they both went in knowing the Real Plot and did their own thing anyway. Or maybe he could’ve brought Jess back with him later—long engagement they talk everyone into—and put their future marriage on hold to train her some to to protect herself. All kinds of things.
Lucius grew up with all these people. And after his experiences in America, I like to think he had some clarity going back about who he could actually trust.
Of course, they get married anyway. Despite her being more of a burden and risking her entire clan being wiped out and all the political ramifications of her not being trained or ready to be a ruler at all. Because love. Sure, they avoided a possible vampire war. But they also made the inner politics of that world a whole lot more complicated and war, because of bad blood, possibly still possible. And much more difficult to spot, though, because now their clans are “united.” Problem sloppily, and not completely, solved.
All I’m saying is I wanted a more… cunning approach to this vampire world. They’ve been around eons. It’s all about politics and ending bloodshed and, in the case of the Bad Guy Vampires, it’s all about consolidating power with their clan only. A brief war, a decent amount of worthless human lives (to them) lost, and the inferior clan would be gone. No need to sully their prince’s line with a crude, American raised, vampire princess. And, reading about Jess’ clan, Jess’ clan really didn’t seem in a position be able to put up much of a fight if it came down to that, so why the pact was still even on is beyond me. The Bad Guy Vampires don’t seem the type to just keep their word if it doesn’t serve them.
There was so much Potential wasted, you know? Ah, well, it was an interesting idea and an interesting walk down memory lane. I don’t think I’ll pick up the next book. My understanding from reviews makes me think it’ll be disappointing.
What some people might be uncomfortable reading about in this book because of personal opinion or belief: as may be expected, the talk of blood drinking eventually does get sensual in nature. The biting sounds like it happens most naturally around, or during, sex. It’s about your average paranormal YA book basically.