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December 23, 2011

Beth Fantaskey on Strong Girls

Posted by Katherine
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Beth Fantaskey’s debut novel, Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, was a Good Morning America Pick for Teen Summer Reading, a Barnes & Noble Best Teen Book of the Year and an IndieNext pick, and was nominated for ALA’s Best Book for Young Adults list. The sequel, Jessica Rules the Dark Side, is due out in January 2012. She is also the author of Jekel Loves Hyde. Beth lives in rural Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters. Here she talks about the different kinds of strong female characters that figure in her books.

Be sure to check out the free eBook giveaway of JESSICA’S GUIDE TO THE DARK SIDE, which begins Dec. 23 and runs for two weeks! Readers can download the eBook wherever eBooks are sold, or go to http://www.hmhbooks.com/jessicarules.

I get a lot of --- largely undue --- credit for writing books with strong female characters.  Girls who stand up for themselves, and who don’t immediately fall for the first handsome guy who looks twice at them.

To be honest, this has never been a conscious decision.  To me, that’s just how girls are.  I was raised to think for myself and take care of myself, and my female friends are the same way.  I write the girls I know. 

However, in my new book, JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE, I will admit that I did want to send a certain message about the heroine’s best friend, Mindy Stankowicz. 

JESSICA RULES is a sequel, and in the original novel --- JESSICA'S GUIDE TO DATING ON THE DARK SIDE --- Mindy is largely the comic relief.  She’s a ditzy girl who’s addicted to fashion magazines and thinks Romania is part of Italy --- a foil to the more serious Jessica, who pulls straight As and is happiest wearing Chuck Taylors and tees. 

Careful readers of JESSICA'S GUIDE, though, no doubt noticed that Mindy had her own strengths, which I purposely drew out and played up in JESSICA RULES THE DARK SIDE.  Mindy may be flighty, and not the brainiest girl in the traditional sense, but throughout both novels, she’s fiercely loyal to her best friend.  Even when Jessica gets everything that Mindy has ever wanted --- namely, a prince and castle --- Mindy doesn’t get catty or overtly jealous.  Sure, she hurts inside, but when Jess needs her help, Mindy sucks it up and rises to the occasion.  And while she might have flunked out of community college, she uses her own brand of smarts --- courtesy of Cosmo --- to help save the day.

If the message of JESSICA'S GUIDE is that beautiful girls comes in all shapes and sizes, in the sequel, it’s definitely that intelligence is similarly nuanced, and that an IQ test can never measure the most important thing any girl – or boy – can have:  character.   

Read more about Beth Fantaskey on her website www.bethfantaskey.com.