Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

by Victoria Testa

Creating a Monster of a Good Book

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde is a highly influential work in English Literature. The mixture of science, romance, and horror is the perfect concoction to drive the most unfeeling person into madness. This deadly combination that questions the good nature of the human soul is the main inspiration for Beth Fantaskey’s Jekel Loves Hyde. Luckily, she is just mad enough to give us a sinfully sinister romance that introduces this tale to a whole new generation.

Jill Jekel is plain. She has only one friend who needs her more than wants her and she is plagues by a popular competitor who  tramples on her academic glory. Her only joy comes from her painting and schoolwork, where she  finds solace in a cozy, normal life. Until her dad is brutally murdered.

Enter Tristan Hyde, a boy as devastatingly handsome as he is mysterious. He is Jill’s momentary shoulder to cry on as she grapples with the idea that her father might not have been so innocent. With his unknown crimes surfacing, , the last thing Jill wants to think about is an upcoming chemistry competition. However, when she learns that her father has stolen her college savings, Jill is faced with a mysterious family secret to solve, a scholarship to win, and a dangerous partner to save.

Tristan Hyde is convinced that there is a monster inside of him. Encouraged by his grandfather’s stories and Robert Louis Stevenson’s infamous novel, he believes he is a descendant of the original Mr. Hyde, and that it is only a matter of time before he becomes a terrible beast. Hopeless, Tristan is instantly intrigued by Jill’s family secret,  which concerns a box that contains the secret potions of the  Jekels’ most notorious ancestor.

As the pair work to win Jill the scholarship and save Tristan’s life, it becomes clear that there are  more than chemical fumes filling the air. A romance begins to flourish that is as inviting as it is terrifying. Jill’s doubts make her unaware of how much Tristan, and the beast he harbors, want her – and for two very different reasons.

Suddenly, as their passion gets as hot as a Bunsen burner, a shocking event leaves Tristan and Jill severely changed. Jill has become anything but plain, and Tristan must come to terms with the fact that his father is not the man he used to be, maybe not even a man at all. Jill and Tristan must fight monsters, chemistry teachers, and high school quarterbacks to keep their love, and themselves, alive.

Beth Fantaskey does a wonderful job of developing both of the characters’ voices through alternating narrators. Tristan is such a great mix of average guy and fearful monster that you fight the urge to run away from him or pat him on the back. Jill is shaken by her recent tragedy, and it shows in everything she does. However, Jill’s self-pitying tone makes you want to slap her as much as you want to root for her.

The loneliness of the characters seems a little far- fetched. The fact that Jill is so socially inept that she only has one friend makes her difficult to relate to  and slightly boring. True, smart girls are often portrayed as lonely, but there is always one or two nerdy cohorts. The reader finds themselves constantly waiting for Tristan’s narration to arrive, because Jill’s self-pitying tone gets annoying fast.

Yet, Jill becomes increasingly intriguing as the story moves forward, compensating for her former lack of character. Tristan, on the other hand, could easily be the most popular guy around. His stunning good looks and dark charm are instant chick magnets. Despite how impossible his loneliness seems, it becomes clear that he chooses to be a loner out of fear of hurting someone.

The romance is swoon worthy, although it always has an undertone of darkness. Tristan makes for the perfect bad boy, and Jill’s fears make her seem more realistic. Their love has an almost Beauty and the Beast quality to it, confusing but passionate.

Finally, Jekel Loves Hyde preaches about the two contradictory sides that exist in every person. It captivates the imagination, because, as much as we try to convince ourselves otherwise, we all have a dark side: the dark side that makes us talk back to our peers and break rules that seem meant to be broken; the dark side that is buried just below the surface; the dark side that can be awakened by anything from a lethal potion to a seductive kiss. Jekel Loves Hyde lets you experience how easy it is to access it, how much it can hurt others, and just how menacing and exhilarating that dark side is.

Victoria Testa lives in New York City but is a beach bum at heart. When not writing or reading, she can be found surfing, swimming, and singing!

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