Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey

Jekel Loves Hyde
Beth Fantaskey

This is another book that I picked up at BEA. If you’re wondering why I’m reading so many young adult books lately – there were a lot of young adult novels to pick up there and I’m trying to make a dent in the BEA TBR piles.

The Premise: This is a young adult story that is based upon the idea that the story Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was based on truth. Jill Jekel is one of Dr. Jekyll’s indirect descendants, while Tristen Hyde is descended from Mr. Hyde. Jill and Tristen are both in the same chemistry class but although they were teased because of their last names, they don’t really know each other. That begins to change after the murder of Jill’s father, a chemist. Tristen can relate because his mother has been missing for over a year and he’s sure she’s dead. When their teacher suggests they work together on a science competition, they work in secret on experiments Jill’s father was working on before he died. Experiments that are supposedly from the papers of the original Dr. Jekyll which Tristen believes are the only thing that can save him from his genetics.

My Thoughts: A comment about the cover: when you take the wrapper off the hardcover is a lovely silver-green-gray color. And the endpapers are bright neon green! This pleases me.

On to the review.

I really liked the idea of a young adult story based on Jekyll and Hyde, so I started this with high hopes. It began well with Jill’s father’s funeral and Jill trying to get back to her everyday life. I liked the writing style. It’s very smooth and I settled easily into the story.  Tristen and Jill are the narrators (each chapter’s narrator is clearly marked), and their voices sound like teens, although I thought they did sound very similar to each other, which was distracting. Things are not really OK with either teen, they both seem to have problems. Jill’s problems are obvious – her dad was murdered, he was involved in shady dealings, and her mom is not coping well, so JIll has to take care of things she shouldn’t be responsible for.  Tristen is pretending to be normal but has serious worries about the “Hyde curse” and questions about his mother’s disappearance, but his father, a prominent psychotherapist tells him not to be concerned.

The underlying issues that Jill and Tristen have and the suggestion that more is going on had me reading along at a happy clip. This was a relatively fast read for me, but as I was reading, I started feeling ambivalent. When the book begins, Tristen and Jill are up as opposites, which Jill being a plain, mousey type, while Tristen was a confident outsider.  I thought Tristen was interesting because of his confidence and hoped that Jill would come out of her shell, but after the set up of the story and the two began to interact as more than strangers, I realized something about their personalities. I think Tristen was supposed to be a dark hero and Jill a pure heroine, but this did not come out the way I think the author intended. Jill is plain, good girl, but she was often walked all over by other girls. Tristen is a leader with a dark side – he doesn’t really care what anyone thinks of him, including teachers, so he treats them without much respect. Can you already see my problem? Jill’s goodness and innocence reads as milquetoast. Tristen’s dark edge comes off as rudeness.  The disconnect between the way I perceived their characters and what the narrators were telling me their characters were like, was the issue. I wanted to see Tristen’s darkness and Jill’s purity but it didn’t really work (although Tristen comes closer than Jill does).

There are glimpses of more to these characters but they didn’t feel fully explored. For example, the dark other being that Tristen feels inside himself, telling him to do violent, despicable things is a threat that I never really feared. It just never evolves into something really dangerous within this story, despite all the warnings and flashbacks. Jill’s exploration of breaking out of her good girl mold was similarly disappointing and felt like an afterthought. I wanted more. I also wanted more from the way this story ended – which was rather abrupt and then we have an epilogue that was supposed to tie everything together.  I thought it was wrapped up rather too conveniently, but after mulling over it I think it can be interpreted in a much darker way, and I like the implications. It’s much more horrifying, but I’m not sure that the ending I think could be there is the one that IS there so I can’t really credit the author.

Overall: This young adult paranormal has an excellent premise (Jekyll & Hyde re-imagined as teens of opposite sexes!) but the execution did not meet my expectations, which puts the book into the “it was alright, but I had reservations with it” category.

Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository

Other reviews:
On the Nightstand – 4 out of 5
The Book Butterfly – “Jekel Loves Hyde is a novel that will not appeal to all readers. Yet it’s a book that can still be enjoyed for its unique premise and intriguing plot line.”
Steph Su Reads – 3 out of 5 (I found myself nodding when I read her review after writing up mine. I agree)
Lurv a la Mode – DNF (very well written explanation why this was a DNF)

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