Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

By: Alex Flinn
Publisher: Harper Teen
ISBN: 978-0-06-087418-6

About the book:

I am a beast.

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.


On my friend Natalie’s recommendation (and because I’m a sucker for retold fairy tales) I picked up Beastly by Alex Flinn, a modern retelling of – you guessed it – the Beauty and the Beast story. Seeing as it’s a contemporary version, and from the teenage Beast’s perspective, no less, I wasn’t really sure how much I’d like the book’s premise. Thankfully any reservations I had were completely unfounded as I thoroughly enjoyed Flinn’s take on this classic story (the tone reminded me somewhat of the film 10 Things I Hate About You). The book’s appeal lies in how Flinn manages to retain key elements of the classic tale (Beast living in isolation who prizes roses, father giving up daughter for his freedom, girl living as the Beast’s captive) and makes them work in a modern setting. If you’ve seen the Disney film, or read either the fairy tale or Robin McKinley’s fantastic retellings (Beauty and Rose Daughter), you know the gist of the story. What sets Beastly apart is its modern setting and male point of view. Flinn sets quite a challenge for herself with her beast-to-be – Kyle, the “prince” of his exclusive prep school, is a royal jerk. Just a head’s up, there’s a little bit of language and teenage promiscuity is alluded to in Beastly, but it’s definitely in keeping with Kyle’s character and there’s nothing explicit. Sure, he’s only a high school freshman, but he’s so self-absorbed and mean-spirited, it seems impossible to think you’ll ever like, never mind actually cheer, for his character. However, Kyle’s transformation into Adrian, the more likable, sympathetic person that emerges during his time as a beast, is actually quite believably done, with only fleeting instances where the POV wasn’t quite convincingly male. A fun touch illustrating Kyle’s growth is transcripts from the “Unexpected Changes” online support group. There Kyle meets characters like the Frog Prince and the Little Mermaid, and it’s a lot of fun to see how he goes from being completely self-absorbed and belligerent to a supportive friend towards others suffering from unwanted transformations. I absolutely LOVED Flinn’s characterization of the witch, and how she has this prickly relationship with Kyle/Adrian, and is his advocate well before he won over this reader. The character of Lindy is a refreshing romantic interest for the beast. She’s an atypical “beauty” in desperate need of happiness and affirmation, and her strengths and weaknesses complement the Kyle/Adrian’s growth arc quite well. In a culture where tremendous importance is placed on looks, there’s a sweet and much-needed message embedded in Beastly’s pages about the source of true beauty and the joy of being known and loved for one’s inner self.


Joy Tamsin David said...

You know what, this book sounds a lot better than the movie I watched. I think I'm gonna put it on my wish list. thanks!

Unknown said...

@Joy - Oh I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know whenever you get the chance to read it!

Crazy Sandy said...

Thanks for this interesting review Ruth. I discoverded, with you blog, that Beastly was at first a book. Because it only happen in France on september, i decide to read the book to find a way to wait. ;) And crazy as i am, i have read it all night completly... So i'm a little bit tired today. But it worth it, it was a nice story. I read in your review of the film there is some differences between the two, specially in the end. And think that's why it only came out in America March 2011 (instead of oct 2010). They did change some things in the story. Because when you watch the first trailers, you can see some glimpse from the scene of his "sacrifice" to save the girl. Maybe, we'll have this end in France (it happen for other films), or maybe we'll see it on the dvd. Fingers cross.

Unknown said...

@Crazy Sandy - You're welcome! And thank you for stopping by & commenting. :) I am happy to hear that you enjoyed Beastly the book - I'm quite impressed you pulled an all-nighter. :) You bring up a good point - I'm curious to see what, if any, deleted scenes are included on the DVD. If the film release is different in France you'll have to let me know!