Saturday, May 1, 2010

Beastly by Alex Flinn

Beastly by Alex Flinn
published October 2007 by HarperCollins
320 pages (hardcover), YA

Kyle Kingsbury has it all - money, good looks, hot girlfriend - and he knows it. One day, at his NYC prep school, he notices a strange, green-haired girl for the first time in English class as she is attempting to make a point about how superficial outward beauty is. Feeling sorry for her, but really just wanting to make a joke out of her, he asks her to be his date for a school dance (she's not exactly pretty as a picture), for which he has no intention of picking her up let alone being seen with her. A cruel prank. A Kyle thing to do. At the dance, the girl expects Kyle to ditch her, but she also has something planned for him - a curse which will turn him into a beast and which can only be broken by a true love's kiss. And we have a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast, from the Beast's perspective.

Beauty and the Beast is one of those stories with endless variants (an Author's Note at the end of the book will point you in the right direction for more) because it is timeless. Both vanity and love will always exist. And what better setting to showcase these characteristics than a modern-day New York? I won't lie - I had the Disney version stuck in my head for comparison because I absolutely loved it as a kid. After Kyle's transformation into Beast (or Adrian, as he prefers to be called), the similarities are actually quite striking but still fresh and unique. There are roses in abundance, a magic mirror, an imprisoned father traded for his fair daughter, and a friendship and later love that blossoms between Beauty and the Beast.

A sixth-grade girl recommended this book to me many months ago - oh, how she gushed about it! Her eyes lit up, and she said repeatedly, "You HAVE to read this!" Well, I finally did! And I'm happy to say that it is completely gush-worthy. I love a fleshed-out fairy tale, especially now that I've read so many of Grimm's, which, to me, just seem like the bare bones of our favorite fairy tales. And fleshed-out, this one is. The transformation from Kyle to Adrian in this book feels genuine and complex, as he learns to accept his fate as a hairy, ugly beast of a man, and slowly finds hope that someone can see past his appearance and maybe even love him. The moments he shares with Lindy, his prisoner and former classmate, are inwardly tense but gentle and precious. They both have much to learn about each other and themselves. Although I wasn't completely thrilled with the way the happy ending played out, I was glad to experience a happily ever after, as it should be.

I have a small confession to make. I moved this one up on the to-read pile because of this:

As much as I loved the book, the sap in me says that I'll like the movie even better. While I'm a little iffy on the casting choices (Mary-Kate as the ugly witch? hmm...), the updated look for the Beast fits better with the NYC landscape, and I'm a fan of the soundtrack already. Do I have to wait for summer?

More reviews:
La Femme Readers; Steph Su Reads; Books and Movies; read what you know; Today's Adventure; T.V. and Book Addict; I Heart Monster; All About {n}; Readingjunky's Reading Roost



Audrey; (AyC) said...

haha, i've wanted to read this one when i saw the movie too! and personally, i've never read any of the grimm fairy tales, i really should get to that :o good review!

Jan von Harz said...

OK I am sold too. The trailer rocks, and I now have to add yet another book to the pile. Arggh I am beginning to drown in must reads. "Thanks Natalie," she says in a nice but sarcastic tone.

(sorry about the first comment, I didn't edit it and found a glaring mistake)

Kathleen said...

The book sounds good and the movie looks great!

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