Today I have the entire day off—I don’t have to work anywhere—so surprise! it’s raining. But that’s ok because now I have an opportunity to brag about the arrival of my most recent Amazon purchase (which wasn’t made at 3 o’clock in the morning after several vodka gimlets thank you very much, but by the way Zappos has a very generous return policy, in case any of you have a problem with ordering five pairs of Steve Madden sandals in every color just to see which one looks better with your nail polish). Anyway, I intentionally ordered 10 YA books from Amazon, all of which are about dystopian futures, or time-traveling children, or vampires. And I can feel smug about it and call it market research.
So the first book I was going to read was Ruby Red, (with time-travelling children!) and believe you me sir, Ruby Red will be getting some serious attention at a later date. However, Ruby Red was still in the box, in the kitchen, and I was in my room, which is like almost thirty feet away, so I read Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (Harcourt 2009) first instead.
I am not a huge Twilight fan, but I do love to hate it. Kind of like how I feel about Camilla Kelsey on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. And my good friend Melissa has kind of gotten me hooked on Vampire Diaries…even though I only read them ironically, hipster-style. And you can’t help but admire the premise of Jessica’s Guide: a Romanian exchange student mysteriously shows up during Jessica’s senior year, claiming they were betrothed at birth. Oh yeh, and he’s a vampire.
You already want to read it don’t you? I know, it had me at hello too.
Anyway, so what I particularly liked about the beginning is that Fantaskey doesn’t muck around with building up the suspense with any ‘is he or isn’t he’ a vampire, a la Twilame. Lucius pretty much just shows up and announces that he’s a vampire within the first twenty pages, and we get to it. The book seems very aware of its cheese-factor and is lovably snarky; not taking itself or its characters too seriously. Lucius comes off as kind of a delightful asshole—he is put-out that Jessica isn’t falling all over herself for him, and instead “harbors an ill-advised attraction to a hay-baling farm lad.” Lucius has all the grandeur, ego, and over-the-top flowery romance of Edward Cullen, but in a charming, tongue-in-cheek way instead of a nauseating, middle-school diary kind of way.
Jessica—who has known her whole life that her vegan, yoga-practicing, hippie parents adopted her from some cult in Romania when she was a baby—is a nerdy mathlete that believes in science and wants nothing to do with the supernatural, or dreamy Europeans claiming to be vampire royalty. But Lucius claims that if she refuses to marry him when she reaches 18 a war will break out between their two vampire families. Her parents begrudgingly admit that they knew about this pact all along. Jessica just wants to date her cute (but boring) neighbor, and thinks Lucius is an insufferable snob.
Predictably (and I have nothing against predictability in YA vampire love-stories) Jessica finds herself falling in love with the tall, dark, handsome, dangerous, blah blah blah dead sexy Romanian. The story kind of falters for me in the second half, where the characters get a little less fun and goofy, and start sounding more like Edward and Bella. Lucius even has an inexplicable smell that Jessica finds irresistible (though she refrains from calling it her ‘own brand of heroin,’ and freesia and apple blossoms are blessedly absent). There are a few plot holes, and some supporting characters are paper-thin (Jessica’s best friend Mindy kind of fades away, only popping up half-heartedly in the last half), but it’s worth a read if only for Lucius’ dry one-liners. And the fact that he joins the high school basketball team. Can you imagine Edward participating in organized sports? I can just see his face contorting in horror at the thought of wearing gym shorts.