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Monday, January 18, 2010

JESSICA’S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE By Beth Fantaskey. Camberwell:Penguin, 2010

Jessica Packwood knows she was adopted as a baby by the Packwoods, who were in Romania at the time, studying a local culture. She has grown up in the US and attended a normal high school with the standard complement of bullies, bitchy cheerleaders and nice farm boys.

When gorgeous Romanian exchange student Lucius Vladescu informs her that she’s a vampire princess and his destined bride, their union needed to prevent a vampire clan war, she reacts as you’d expect – no way! But Lucius isn’t that easily deterred. And he has a useful gift for her: Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide To Dating, Health and Emotions. Of course, there are a couple of things to distract him, such as the above-mentioned bitchy but attractive cheerleader, and his success on the school basketball team…

This is the latest teen vampire romance. The ending is predictable (isn’t it always?), but kids like predictable, so fair enough.

I always wonder, when reading these novels, what would happen if the male vampire was pimply, fat and picked his nose. I’d really love to know why these vampires always seem to be aristocrats (a bit like Tolkien Elves, really), why the heroine is always vital to the survival of the vampire world. (Of course, I did read some years ago that folklore vampires tend to be aristocrats because aristocrats in general are bloodsuckers…)

But then, I’m just a cynical adult who has read far too many of these books since they became popular. And right now, this is what teenage girls want to read. At least this one has a sense of humour. There are some very funny scenes in it, including several letters home from Lucius to his Uncle Vasile about the weirdness of American culture, how you can’t get decent food (apart from pizza, he likes that) or clothes, how they decorate grubby bits of forest in their homes at Christmas and how his betrothed is attracted to a peasant!

The book is well-written and will, among other things, appeal to reluctant readers who will appreciate the shortness of the chapters.

Despite my cynical-adult feelings, I thought it was fun and I know that teenage girls will enjoy it too.


Unknown said...

The whole "we must get married to save our clan/race/the world" is a paranormal trope that drives me nuts. I admit that some of this sounds amusing, and maybe I would have loved it at 14, but there are some YA books that just don't make good reading as an adult.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Quite right, Merrilee - it does drive adults like us nuts. But it's not aimed at us. It's for teenage girls. And as you say, they love it. Fourteen to sixteen-odd is the age when Mary Sue is new and fresh and wonderful. I try not to judge it too harshly, as long as it suits the audience at whom it is aimed. I am going to donate this one to my library and I bet it gets borrowed the first day it appears on the display shelf!