Monday, October 4, 2010

Review: JEKEL LOVES HYDE by Beth Fantaskey!

Retelling of classic literature and fairy tales seem to be all the rage right now. And I've gotta admit, I love a retelling, too. And that's initially what drew me to Beth Fantaskey's new book, JEKEL LOVES HYDE. But here's the thing -- it's not a retelling. And it's not a sequel either (not a fan of newly published sequels to classics -- though if you show me a good one, I could change my mind). JEKEL LOVES HYDE builds on the ideas that Robert Louis Stevenson used in his novel, and uses the novel as a pivotal theme in Jill Jekel and Tristan Hyde's story.

And it's such a good story!

Jill Jekel thinks of herself as the mousy nerd-girl, lucky to be friends with a cheerleader who might only be using her friendship as a path to homework help. Since her dad was killed, her mom has been a wreck. In fact, Jill takes care of her mom most of the time, making sure she doesn't have another breakdown. The fact that her dad's murder was never solved doesn't help her family situation, but Jill is determined to move on and make the most of what's left of her high school experience.

Tristan Hyde is a loner, an outsider whose father is a prominent British psychologist who recently moved to Pennsylvania to work with local colleagues. With a workaholic dad never home, Tristan grew close to his grandfather. And on his deathbed, Grandfather Hyde told Tristan a secret: he'd committed murder, his family was cursed, and Tristan would be affected, too. He then gave Tristan a first edition copy of The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, saying that in those pages was the only chance Tristan might have to save himself. Now that Tristan has started having the dreams, he believes his grandfather might be right.

Both students who excel in Chemistry, Tristan and Jill's teacher offer them the opportunity to compete for a scholarship by developing an original experiment outside of class. He suggests Jill and Tristan work together, believing that it will give them a better chance at the money, especially given that a "Jekel and Hyde" team will intrigue the judges. At first, neither is interested. But when Jill realizes that her dad spent her college fund on secret research she realizes she might not have a choice. And as Tristan's dreams -- and his attraction to Jill -- get more intense, she realizes that she might be the key to solving his curse. They will recreate the experiments that the original Dr. Jeckyl conducted and look for a cure. Jill, of course, is skeptical, but the attraction to Tristan is there -- has been there, in fact, since the day he approached her at her father's funeral and offered her a comforting hug right when she needed it -- and her lack of college money is more than enough incentive to take up Tristan on his offer.

Of course, it won't be easy. There's the fact that Jill's mom is on the verge of another meltdown, that Tristan's Dad is acting more and more erratic, that the truth about Jill's father's murder is painting him in a less-than-flattering light, and there's the regular school drama of catty girls and nasty football players, one of whom Tristan pummels. This book runs the gamut of emotions, creatively weaving in the mythology Stevenson's Jeckyl and Hyde to tell the story of two star-crossed teens doomed to deal with chemical reactions that they'd always supposed were fiction. JEKEL LOVES HYDE is science-y, romance-y, and mysterious, a great read for any reader looking for something a little different with a heroine who could be the girl next door and a bad boy who has to actually work to win her over. Do yourself a favor and pick this book up on your next trip to your library or bookstore. You won't be able to put it down.


Jessie said...

I thought this was a really fun & interesting read. Plus, Beth is such a friendly and approachable author. I love to love her books.

Ms. Yingling said...

My students all think there should be a sequel to Jessica's Guide. I had to buy two copies of that one, and not a week goes by that someone doesn't inquire about a sequel!

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