Jessica's Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskey
Jessica is adopted, a fact which her hippie parents have never kept from her. She was born in Romania but adopted as an infant and raised in America on a farm. She’s pretty typical: mathlete, equestrian, mildly popular...and then one morning a tall, dark, handsome and vaguely creepy exchange student lurks in the mist by her bus stop and derails all of her precisely laid out senior year plans. He shows up in her classes and seems only to have eyes for her. A creepy boyfriend was definitely not on her agenda, and she frequently wills his attention to stray to any of the myriad girls who swoon over him, only to find out that he is destined to be in her life.
She immediately enters the first of the five stages of grief: denial.
Lucius is apparently staying on their farm. He is their exchange student and it is soon made clear that he has designs on Jessica. It’s immediately obvious that he is different but while her parents say “Vampire” she says “freaky cult” right up until the moment she needs to give in or Fantaskey knows her readers will stray.
In a refreshing spin on the teenage vampire love story, it is revealed that our heroine is not just adopted from a Romanian family, but adopted from a Royal Romanian Vampire family and is betrothed to Lucius she moves directly into stage two: Anger.
There are fights, rages, blow-ups. Everything needed to make this teen drama a..well...a drama. Every emotion Jessica externalizes (or internalizes in some cases) is believable, from her body image to her understandable resistance to a life that has already been chosen for her. After the dust settles she moves into stage three, bargaining, which is muddled by her wafting in and out of stage four: depression.
She lets Lucius into her life, but only on her terms and not always without a fight. Their relationship is believable in a way that someone who still remembers being seventeen can create. Fantaskey gives us jealous friends and would-be boyfriends constantly coming between Jessica and Lucius. Their friendship blossoms and then get trampled - on both sides.
Lucius’ thoughts on the unfolding events are revealed to the reader throughout the book in letters to his uncle, the vicious vampire who sent him to retrieve his promised bride. His expounds on the food, culture of high school, and of course his pursuit of Jessica… all with the stiff air of someone writing out of obligation and not of love and the desire to share. Even this is refreshing...a vampire with a tender heart of gold is something we’re starting to expect.
And then Jessica turns 18. This is it: the culmination. She now decides her future. After all of the drama and growth can she accept who she is? Will she walk away from her destiny? And what does it mean for Lucius, for herself, when his true nature is revealed to their entire school? Only after she tackles a court of abusive vampires and travels around the globe will we find out.