Jessica Rules the Dark Side

9780143566113

Newly minted vampire princess Antanasia Dragomir can barely summon the courage to speak at meetings of the Elders, let alone mete out the harsh vampire justice she’s expected to deliver as a ruler. Confidence fading, she tends to allow Lucius to speak – and act – for both of them. But when an Elder is mysteriously destroyed on the grounds of their estate – and all signs, including a bloodstained stake – point to Lucius, Antanasia is forced to stand alone, because Lucius is detained in the Vladescu dungeons until he can be tried.

Trying to guide someone through the labyrinth of vampire deluge can be a harrowing experience for all. Still, there is, without a doubt, a place for every type of book and that includes the two fanged variety, even in this post twilight age we live in. What sends most scurrying away, however, is the flood of books that lies before you when you utter the word ‘vampire’.

Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side (the first in Antanasia Dragomir story) had fun. Romania princes and princesses, secret vampire cults, adoption, romance, action (a little stabbing here and there) and – my personal favourite – real teenage issues.

You see, Jessica is a normal girl (vampire). She has these things called hips and a stomach, and long curly crazy (the hairdresser wont touch it) hair. I liked that she worried about whether or not she should have dessert; whether or not, now that she had given in and started the dessert, it should be finished. The ‘am I pretty?’, ‘does he prefer her?’ and ‘am i enough?’ questions are asked with heart and honesty. The teenage ‘weight’ issue is made all the more real because Jessica is the one to discover her own beauty. It’s about finding it from within. I rather like this message circulating through our teenagers: only from within.

I appreciated Jessica’s humour and skepticism about herself and her origins. That’s what made Fantaskey’s novel stand out from all the muddle: it was real and honest. There was also some female empowerment messages that a girl just can’t go past!

Jessica Rules the Dark Side is a unique sequel. The main character and love interest are married. The conflict comes not from the emotional investment in the romantic couple (they’re already married, matrimonial bliss does not make a plot for UST), but from Jessica herself.

Jessica’s character, in a way, is beginning again. She’s been taken from all she knows – high school, America and mucking stalls – to the royal vampire courts. Jessica’s journey is about what happens after the happily ever after. She’s surrounded by men (befanged men) and politics, and in the way of most people starting a new life, needs to find this ‘new’ self. Is it all of the old self, just in better attire? or is it parts of the old self, with new thrown in?

What also grabbed at my attention was the marriage of the main characters. I can’t wax poetic with statistics over here, but I would venture to say that there is a significant portion of  teenagers who marry in real life… and yet I can’t say there are any readily recognisable books dealing with this issue. It struck me as odd: why is teenage marriage a silent issue in YA fiction? Surely teen marriage, and all it’s inherent hardships, deserves to be explored? Surely this section of teenagers deserve their representation?

It seems my teen marriage fiction is sorely lacking. Does anybody have any book titles to set me on the right path?

Penguin Australia

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