Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:
Synopsis for Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (from Goodreads):
The undead can really screw up your senior year …
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.
Author: Beth Fantaskey
# of Books: 2 (Full Reading Order Here)
Book Order: Chronological
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, Romance, Paranormal
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Alternating (#1); Multiple (#2)
Publication Dates: February 2009 – October 2011
Source & Format: Public Library–Audiobook
Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:
Before I went to university many years ago, the only way I could get “new” books was by borrowing them from friends; getting them as gifts or buying them myself. My public library wasn’t that great (they had limited funding back then) so I often bought books that I saw on Indigo (the Barnes and Noble of Canada) that interested me. Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side was one of them.
I always think fondly of this book when I think back to it years later. I thought it was such an interesting take on the world of vampires and YA romance. I remember reading the extended epilogue online shortly afterwards and hoping there would be a sequel. I hadn’t discovered Goodreads yet and so it took me a few years to discover that there actually was a published sequel but I never got around to reading it.
The Jessica Series has sat at the top of my “Series Tracking” worksheet for a very long time; but when I saw that my library now had the audiobooks, I knew I found my next series to binge. I reread Book #1 and then immediately started Book #2.
The Concept / The World:
There are no sparkly vampires here! Lucius lives up to the stereotypical Romanian vampire which is part of his charm as he is thrust into midwestern America. It’s fun to get his take on American customs and culture when he writes back to his uncle. I liked that this book didn’t shy away from the traditional, darker side of vampires but it still had its own unique take.
In Book #1, I struggled a bit with the pacing of the plot. While I enjoyed watching Jessica and Lucius dance around each other and their feelings for a length of time, it makes things seem a bit rushed at the end. It’s almost like the “on” switch is suddenly flicked on given how things progress. Which is weird to say when we do take our time to get there; but the shift in the plot isn’t really that gradual. Especially when I look back at what the synopsis says is to happen in the book. There was just a slight disconnect.
One thing that really surprised me with this series is that it isn’t overly fluffy or melodramatic. Despite the fact that it includes vampires, it’s rather grounded in its approach. Becoming a new vampire and embracing your heritage perfectly mirrors the teenage coming of age experience. And that is reflected in the snippets of the “Growing Up Undead” guide Jessica receives in book #1.
I struggled a bit with the vibes of Book #2, Jessica Rules the Dark Side. I don’t want to give much away but I felt like some of that spark of what made the first book so great was missing. It almost feels like the opposite of the first book: the suspense overtakes the romance. It’s a nice way to wrap things up but there were parts (like the new POV) that either should have been the main focus of the book or just completely omitted I think to balance out the story better.
As I said above, part of Lucius’ charm is listening to his takes on American culture. I loved his dry humour and wit. He just makes me laugh.
I really liked Jessica’s growth throughout the series. I was never annoyed with her which is always a bonus. She’s relatable yet not in the cliché way that some heroines are (you know, where the author tries to make the heroine “relatable” all the while they are some “special snowflake”). She’s not always confident in herself and she makes some mistakes along the way, but she has this inner strength and loyalty that really starts to shine and come through as the stories progress. It was great to watch her character evolve.
I love a good slow burn romance and sometimes we don’t always get that in YA (where things can be hot and heavy rather quickly). I liked how these two really got to know each other and learned to compromise in order to be true partners. They have great chemistry, even if I think that chemistry got a little lost in the last quarter of Book #1 when the plotline thickens.
My Audiobook Experience:
I own the paperback of the first novel but when I reread the first book again, I went with the audiobook (and did again for the sequel). SO MUCH FUN! It was great to have these characters brought to life with the accents and I honestly think I got more of the humour and wit by listening to the audiobooks.
Series Rating: 3/5
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side 3/5 | Jessica Rules the Dark Side 3/5
A great blend of humour and heartwarming moments, this series is a fresh take on teenaged vampire romances!