Beastly by Alex Flinn

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

author’s website: Alex Flinn
release date: October 2, 2007
appeals to: Young Adult
genre: Fairy Tale Retelling
length: 336 pages
publisher: HarperTeen
overall rating: 4 Stars
body image & self perception issue: disfigurement

*the back cover*
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright – a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It’s no deformity, no disease. And I’ll stay this way forever – ruined – unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.

*my review*
Beastly is an interesting look at the story of Beauty and the Beast, but with a few twists: the story is set in modern New York City, and the story is told by the beast. Kyle has just about everything a ninth grade boy could want: he’s the best looking boy in his grade, his dad is famous, they have plenty of money, and he is extremely popular. Unfortunately, he knows all of these things and is also extremely conceited and acts like he is better than everyone else. Then, an unfortunate run in with a witch transforms him into a beast, with one simple “out” clause: he must fall in love with someone who loves him in return within two years.

What was interesting to me was that Kyle doesn’t even think about finding a girl. Instead, he tries to find any method possible of reversing the change. He truly believes that looks are so important that no one would possibly love him in this new form. As time passes, Kyle experiences a roller coaster of emotions, and gradually, you begin to see a change in him. He moves through emotions almost like a person would move through the stages of grief. At first he is in total denial, then he’s angry, and then he gives up completely. It is when he has given up that I thought the most growth occurred. When Kyle began to explore aspects of himself, the most growth occurs.

Since this is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, we know that a “Beauty” must be coming, but the situation that brought the girl to Kyle surprised me (even though it is quite true to the fairy tale). I tried to imagine being in her shoes, and it would have been a terrifying experience! Because this is a retelling, the story was slightly predictable, but it is handled in a way that makes it very enjoyable.

While this is a fantasy story, there are elements of the story that could apply to real teenagers as well. It is easy to understand how important looks are, especially in high school. Kyle believes that looks are the most important thing, until he loses them and has to use his personality to make an impression. Throughout the book, internet chat room conversations that are interspersed between the chapters. They are from the “Unexpected Changes” chat group and they provide a fun look into other fairy tales as the creatures vent and give each other advice. What is really interesting is that all of the characters have issues that also apply to real life. “SilentMaid” likes a boy and wants to change so she can be with him, “Grizzlyguy” is torn because he likes two girls, and of course “BeastNYC” is trying to find his true love despite the animal-like appearance. The conversations are funny, but they have underlying messages too.

Overall, this is a clever way to retell Beauty and the Beast in a way that can definitely apply to modern readers.

*short and snappy*
writing: clever – it really captures the attitude and emotion that Kyle is feeling throughout the story
plot: not a ton of action, and slightly predictable, but all of the internal change makes it captivating
characters: complex – there is a lot of development and change in Kyle from the beginning of the story to the end
miscellaneous: An excerpt of the book and a video feature about the upcoming movie are available


Amelia said...

Hey Molly!
I couldn't have written a better review if I'd had all week :D
And can I say how awesome your "short and snappy" section is? Very organized!

molly (a dazzling distraction) said...

Thanks Amelia!

Jo said...

Awesome review, Molly! I thought this was a brilliant book for BI&SP Month, thought I have to say I wasn't the biggest fan of it. It was ok, though. Thanks for the review!

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