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Jekel Loves Hyde

May 1, 2010

Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey
published by Harcourt Children’s Books May 3, 2010

As this novel opens, Jill Jekel is at her father’s funeral. She notices a boy from her school, Tristan Hyde, among the mourners. He approaches her and comforts her. The language in this introductory scene has a slightly Victorian feel which seems fitting in a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Even the sun was cruel that morning, an obscenely bright but cold January day. The snow that smothered the cemetery glared harshly white…

As the story continues, written in contemporary style, Jill Jekel and Tristan Hyde get to know each other when they become partners in an unusual science project. They are both exceptionally bright. Jill is also a talented artist, and Tristan is a gifted pianist and composer. As romance blossoms, they both delve into their family secrets and discover that Jill Jekel and Tristan Hyde are, in fact, descended from the eponymous characters in Stevenson’s book. While I enjoy suspending disbelief in stories with strong elements of fantasy, this bothered me. How could two families be descended from two sides of the same person?

I also found myself cringing as I watched a teenage girl fall for a dangerous boy who may, in fact, be harboring an urge to kill her. Haven’t we been there and done that in teen paranormal books? And while I’m on the subject, I got really tired of Tristan, even when he had his darker side under control, continually grabbing Jill’s arm. What’s up with that? If my son ever manhandles a girl like that, he’s going to have me to answer to. 🙂 I also disliked the stereotypical secondary characters who populated this novel. We saw a silly cheerleader, a dumb jock, and so forth.

On the other hand, the author stepped outside the boundaries of the “good girl/dangerous boy” cliche; in fact, she explored it and played with it a bit. We see Jill as quiet and timid, following the lead of Tristan, who is commanding and has a dark side lurking not far under the surface. But then we see Jill’s quiet strength step forward, and in Tristan’s words, “she takes her proper place as his full partner.” We even see Jill taking on the role of “bad girl” and Tristan being the sensible one. This is definitely more interesting and unpredictable than other pairings I’ve seen in YA paranormal novels.

I enjoyed the two parallel threads of the narrative, alternating between Jill’s voice and Tristan’s. The author did a terrific job with pacing and with creating a creepy, suspenseful mood. This, along with the fluid narrative and dialogue, kept me turning pages.

This writer also dabbles in some interesting themes. She started out with a good girl/bad boy kind of scenario — yin and yang — then made it more complex. She explores the way good and evil are intertwined in a well-balanced person. When Jill opens herself to a darker side, trouble ensues, but she also gains passion and assertiveness. And if Tristan succeeds in removing his darker side, his inner essence — and his music — suffers.

This is a story that celebrates the shades of gray between black and white and the complexities of human nature. This is reflected in the novel’s imagery, and I found it intriguing. I think this book will spark some interesting discussions.

I borrowed this ARC from Around the World Tours.

Read More Reviews: My 5 Monkeys; BookHounds; And Anything Bookish; Chick Loves Lit; Ellz Readz; Tattooed Books; Shut Up! I’m Reading; Did I Miss Yours?


6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 1, 2010 2:37 am

    I agree (that the book will spark interesting discussions).

    I was very surprised to see a prologue on Scribd, which was put there by one of the many young fans, copied directly from the website.

    A lot of people seem to read secondary characters for someone to identify with, if they can’t get into one of the main ones.

  2. May 4, 2010 12:53 am

    I have this one unread as of yet and have seen mixed reviews. I like the idea of the book…. and still need to get into and see what think of it. Thanks for your review 🙂

  3. May 13, 2010 12:40 pm

    I hadn’t noticed before how the opening scene seemed almost Victorian until you pointed it out. That’s pretty cool! I also liked the creepiness and darkness in the book.

  4. July 5, 2010 5:42 am

    I thought this book was a very good romance, but it confused me a bit. Especially the ending. But overall it was a good read, and I managed to finish it in a day and a half.

  5. July 8, 2010 11:33 pm

    What a great review! You managed to say a lot more than I could 😀 I agree, a lot of the characters did seem flat and stereotypical. I was really glad to see Jill with a dark side too, was interesting for sure.


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