Books I Say No To: Jekel Loves Hyde

Books I Say No To is an informal review segment where I take time to discuss why I couldn’t finish a book or dislike something about it enough to say so and why. This is not a means of discouraging reading of the book. You are always encouraged here at Lurv to seek out and read what interests you, despite less than enthusiastic opinions. A score is only given if it’s for Amazon Vine, where I occasionally receive ARCs.

Jill Jekel has always obeyed her parents’ rules—especially the one about never opening the mysterious, old box in her father’s office. But when her dad is murdered, and her college savings disappear, she’s tempted to peek inside, as the contents might be the key to a lucrative chemistry scholarship.

To improve her odds, Jill enlists the help of gorgeous, brooding Tristen Hyde, who has his own dark secrets locked away. As the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping not only to win a prize, but to save Tristen’s sanity. Maybe his life. But Jill’s accidental taste of a formula unleashes her darkest nature and compels her to risk everything—even Tristen’s love—just for the thrill of being . . . bad.

As posted for Amazon Vine reviews….

Warning to all ye who love to vote on Amazon reviews, this is going to be the lamest one I’ve ever written here because I could not finish the book. I received my copy via Amazon Vine, therefore I’m obligated to do a review, which I have no problem with. I haven’t been having very good luck with Vine books, though, and this time despite loving Fantaskey’s debut novel, I was again left feeling listless and bored.

Jekel Loves Hyde has a great premise, being based off the classic the title emulates. I was sold. I love the concept of the original and have enjoyed movies based on it, and I sincerely dug the twist the author uses here. That’s really the only expectation I had coming in, that the book might try to emulate that eerie, unrelenting sense of morbid danger the original has. And it does. Jekel Loves Hyde has a great atmosphere, but it soon became apparent to me that a great atmosphere was all it would offer this particular reader. Enough to keep me interested anyway.

I’m a character-driven reader for the most part. I love good worldbuilding, where it feels so effortless, like a cradle for the rest of the book. Once that’s firmly established in the back of my mind I want to know the characters. I couldn’t get into the ones here. The chapters (most of which are ridiculously short, sometimes not even two full pages hardly) alternate between Jill and Tristan’s first point of view tellings. And that’s the problem, I think, for me. Each tells the story. There isn’t very much showing. Telling gets monotonous and after several chapters (I’m sorry, I forget what page number I stopped at), I just couldn’t take it anymore. Also, when we’re only ever told how a character feels, it doesn’t make for very imaginative or thrilling character development.

Another thing that irked me was the intense foreshadowing – an element that I’ve seen in other things based on the original. Maybe this just didn’t work well in fiction format for me, but in Jekel Loves Hyde, the constant foreshadowing, at the end of almost every chapter, became redundant. When the next chapter turned up yet another point of foreshadowing, I realized I was gritting my teeth a little.

The writing also wasn’t up to par with the author’s debut work. I’m not sure if this YA novel is targeted at a younger YA set, maybe? But I felt the writing didn’t lend itself particularly well to intelligent young readers. I think that goes back to the telling aspect, which you don’t need that much of. Give the readers credit, that they will “get” it when the writing shows instead of tells. I felt like I was reading a completely different author.

This was one of my most anticipated books for 2010, and I’m more sorry than I can say to be disappointed to the point of not finishing. As there’s plenty more I need to read, the question came down to being miserable reading or taking a chance on the next book in my TBR. You know the answer. Two stars for the fact that I couldn’t finish (which I blame myself for in spite of not enjoying), and the concept and atmosphere, which I felt was the only good thing about what I did read.

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    • Thanks, Elie. :) I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was not the same author. Her debut book was so much better.

  1. This kind of sophomore slump seems pretty common. I’ve heard it called “MFA syndrome.” The first book is worked over and workshopped and polished while the person tries to find a publisher, and the second is . . . not. So you get a great concept not fully developed. It seems like it might be even more common in genre fiction, where there’s pressure to publish more quickly.

    A few years ago, I taught a class pairing classics and reworkings. For many of my students, Jekyll and Hyde + Valerie Martin’s Mary Reilly was the favorite pair.

    • Liz, I’m not sure if that’s what happened here or not. Perhaps Fantaskey was trying to go for a different style? This one does come out a good while after her debut, so I’m guessing there was plenty of time to work on it.

  2. That bums me out to hear that you were unable to finish, as I have been anticipating this read for some time now, too. But thanks for your opinion, it is highly valued!

  3. I’m just about to post a review and will be linking yours. Yeah this did not meet my expectations and I see what you’re talking about re: the telling vs. showing. Something was definitely missing.

  4. Pingback: Jekel Loves Hyde by Beth Fantaskey « Janicu’s Book Blog

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