Jekel Loves Hyde
by Beth Fantaskey, paranormal (2010)
Harcourt, $17.00, ISBN 978-0-15-206390-0


Jekel Loves Hyde is a take on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic dark thriller The Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and since this is something I don't come across in a genre saturated by sparkling vampires and vegetarian werewolves, I was tempted to use my Borders discount voucher on getting this book. Therefore, you have to keep in mind that my opinion of this book may be tampered by the fact that I obtained this book for a small fraction of its cover price. No doubt, if I actually paid $17.00 for this, I'd be less generous in my review of this book.

Jill Jekel is a damsel in distress. Her father recently died when the story opens, and she learns from her mother later that he left them with no money. Therefore, Jill will have no means to continue her college education unless she manages to get her hands on plenty of money quickly. Jill realizes then that she needs to win the scholarship prize offered by a chemistry contest. She decides to do the forbidden: open a mysterious box left behind by her father to play with the chemicals within.

Tristen Hyde is your quintessential British transplant who stares at the heroine, stalks after her, broods, threatens to kill her now and then, and... oh, I'm sure he reminds you of someone. However, unlike that someone, this guy is all about himself and he doesn't treat the heroine nicely at all. Jill will learn that Tristen believes himself to be under a family curse: all Hydes are destined to turn into violent monsters, and that in order to break himself free from the curse, he has to discover the cure using the formula left behind by Jill's father. He believes that the Jekels are the descendants of the original Dr Jekyll who created the monster that was his ancestor Mr Hyde.

This book is very much like the author's equally disturbing debut effort. The hero has no redeeming qualities, treats the heroine badly, and yet, the heroine uses the hero's past or "curse" as an excuse to enable him while trying to "rescue" him. I don't know why I should care so much about "rescuing" Tristen - by trying to break the curse, he has actually become what he claims to hate, so the formula comes off like a cheap contrivance to convince me that the asshole has been miraculously cured of his jerk mule tendencies.

The author also cuts off the heroine from all contact with the world around her to the point that Jill has to depend on Tristen. Jill, for some reason, has no friends except for the More Outgoing And (Supposedly) More Pretty Best Friend stereotype, and that one turns out to be a backstabbing cretin who is as jealous of Jill as Jill is jealous of her. By the last page, Jill has no one to turn to, nowhere to go, except into a permanent relationship with a creepy boy who has done nothing but to take from her and give nothing back in return. To add insult to the injury, Jill is said to be a brainy girl, but she displays very little of her vaunted intelligence in this story. Instead, she does some self-destructive things here that only force her to depend even more on Tristen.

If this is an adult romance, Jekel Loves Hyde would have been disturbing enough as the heroine is shown to be incapable of forming healthy relationships - the one between her and the hero is bad enough, but she also can't seem to form any meaningful relationship with other female characters that isn't marred by envy or unhealthy competitiveness over a boy. Making things even worse is how the author doesn't develop her characters beyond the superficial. These characters are cardboard thin when it comes to character complexity. The plot isn't much - just repetitive angst on both characters' part as Tristen makes Jill miserable and Jill becomes only more determined to save him as a result. This book is very short as a result, with plenty of white space and big fonts being used to create an illusion that this story is longer than it actually is.

This book is a dud, unable to bring to life an interesting premise. I also suspect that Beth Fantaskey is too cynical about relationships between men and women as both her books show such unhealthy relationships passed off as romance for young adults, and I can only wonder whether she's better off writing something else, like suicide dramas. The only thing this book has that can pass for "young adult romance" is Ms Fantaskey's half-hearted wholesale transplant of Edward Cullen stereotypes - everything else is a disturbing portrayal of a woman's willingness to be humiliated and badly treated by a man in the name of "love".

Rating: 44


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