By: Beth Fantaskey
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publication Date: May 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: April 5, 2010
Jill Jekel feels lost. She is standing at her father’s open grave, about to watch the casket descend into darkness. Mr. Jekel was murdered, and now Jill has nobody to turn to. Her mother is dealing with her own demons and her friend Darcy Gray doesn’t really seem to care. But then handsome Tristen Hyde, somebody she only knows in passing from school, approaches her and gives her a much-needed hug. Tristen assures Jill that the pain will pass with time and then leaves the funeral.
When school starts up in the fall, Jill and Tristen find themselves in the same chemistry class. Their teacher, Mr. Messerschmidt, suggests they enter a national chemistry scholarship contest. Advising the two to work together to increase their chances of winning, both Jill and Tristen are unresponsive. But when Jill learns her father spent her college fund on nefarious activities, she reverses course and decides to enter the competition. She needs Tristen's help to win, but how will she convince him to join the competition?
When Jill mentions a metal box kept locked in her father’s office, and how it may contain old chemical "recipes," Tristen is suddenly cooperative. He believes that the contents of the box just may be the key to saving himself from the nightmares he suffers, and the beast he fears he is becoming.
Why the sudden interest from Tristen? He believes he is descended from Mr. Hyde, the evil man-creature from the well-known novel. When he learns that Jill is a descendant of the famous Jekyll family (the spelling was changed when her ancestors moved to America), he hopes that the formulas in the box are the original formulas created by Dr. Jekyll and that they will stop his demons and nightly terrors.
Jill and Tristen are soon working through the formulas that were kept hidden for so long. While the formulas may help Tristen tame his beast, Jill inadvertently tastes the substance, turning her from a never-do-anything-wrong teen, to an out-of-control adolescent. Tristen tries to save her from this transformation; he no longer sees Jill as just a chemistry partner, but a love interest, compelling him to turn Jill back into the girl he once knew.
Jekel Loves Hyde has a clever premise that weaves fiction and fact (for the characters). As Tristen and Jill fall deeper in love, they learn more and more about their respective families and how they are inter-connected. The plot has plenty of twists, turns, and surprises that will keep the reader guessing. The story does ask the reader to suspend belief as the action delves into a fictional tale that is, in this book, a non-fictional story.
The book is written in the first person, the narration bouncing between Jill and Tristen. This technique may take some getting used to, although I had no trouble telling who was conveying the story and felt it helped advance the plot. Parents take note, there is talk of premarital sex, condom use, and murder, and when Tristen confides to Jill that he dreams of killing her, the girl seems to fall deeper in love with him.
Quill says: Suspend belief for a bit and you’ll enjoy a fun fictional tale of Jill Jekel and Tristen Hyde.