What do you do when a book starts off light-hearted and fun, yet ends dark and dramatic? What if you weren't expecting it to happen? In some ways, that is how I felt about Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey.
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."
Review: I'm not sure what I expected exactly, but the turn in the novel from light and flirty to dark and dramatic threw me. Although the vampire theme warranted some danger, I didn't expect the vampire/fiance to go from determined suitor to the evil, unconcerned vampire he eventually became. If this were a mood swing, then it was some mood swing, brought on by what exactly? Was Jessica's determination not to become a vampire just a bit much? I'm not giving anything away here in saying this, as a teen romance usually always has a conflict that leads you to want the two characters together even more. In this case, I wasn't sure why the character's emotions changed so suddenly, when they had so thoroughly convinced me they originally felt just the opposite?
While my biggest concern with the novel was the dramatic shift from light to dark, I will say that this might be my own issue as an adult reader. As a high school teacher always on the look out for books to recommend to my students, I know that teen readers would not be as critical of the drama in the book and probably enjoy the tension that was spelled out in the second half of the novel. For me, it was disconcerting. I liked the fun tone of Jessica finding out she was promised to a vampire prince and wish that the story would have continued in that vein (yes...pun), and allowed a more "campy" play on the vampire theme. The light part of the book I enjoyed and found fun to read; the darker side threw me a little and made me wish for a different conclusion. I'm going to share this one with my students, however, since they are still on the look out for more teen vampire stories!