"You are ugly now, on the inside, where it matters most...you are beastly."Beastly is my second read from Alex Flinn, which I picked up after enjoying Cloaked but not quite finding the magic in it that Flinn has become known for. Since Beastly is her most famous book, and also due to the upcoming release of the film version, I decided to give it a try.
As the title would indicate, this is a retold contemporary version of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, told from the perspective of the Beast. In this case the Beast is Kyle Kingsbury, a attractive and overly confident ninth grade boy transformed by a witch attending his highschool when he plays a cruel joke on her. When Kyle's father, a news anchor, is unable to find a cure for his son's new ugliness he sends him away to a Brooklyn mansion with blinds on all the windows and cameras at the doors. Exiled, Kyle's only companions are a housekeeper, Madga, and a blind tutor, Will. The only chance Kyle has of breaking the curse is kissing a girl who he loves, and who loves him, before two years have passed- but it's hard to find true love when you look like a beast.
Flinn's writing is straightforward but enjoyable to read, and I felt she did a realistic job of letting the reader into the teenage world, particularly when it comes to the unfortunate meanness with which popular kids can sometimes treat outsiders. I particularly enjoyed Kyle's internal dialogue, especially at the beginning of the book when he is still attractive and Flinn lets you in on his cruel thoughts. Unfortunately there were a few aspects of the story that didn't work that well for me. The idea of a girl imprisoned by a beast might work in traditional fairytales but when you put a contemporary spin on it, oftentimes it just came across a little creepy for my taste. It also got pretty strange when Kyle begins to speak like he's in an Austen novel, although even he recognizes it,
"Who dares disturb my roses?"And although I realize Kyle, who renames himself Adrian because it means darkness, is pretty isolated from the world for most of the book, he still speaks to Madga, Lindy and Will and I would have thought that would be enough to keep him speaking normally especially since it doesn't seem to happen to any of the other characters.
Why did I say that"
While Cloaked weaves together many different fairy tales, Beastly focuses on one, which allows Flinn to tell that story well. Kyle isn't totally alone in his transformation though, as at several points throughout the book Flinn includes excerpts from a chat group for individuals who have been transformed, including such familiar beings as the Frog Prince and Little Mermaid. These chats were a great way to add to the contemporary spin on the story, and I enjoyed reading them. However, the novel as a whole doesn't really add a whole lot that new to the fairytale and it really is just an updated version of it. Even the one aspect that Flinn does change is really predictable from the beginning of the book so that I wasn't at all surprised when it was revealed.
Overall, Beastly provides a cute, easy-to-read story, and although like Cloaked, I would tend to recommend Flinn's simplistic writing style for younger readers, there is some innuendo involved in the book as well as darker themes that make me wonder who exactly the intended audience of the book is, but personally I'd mostly recommend the novel to young teens. Ultimately, though, Beastly is an enjoyable light read with an important message and although it doesn't provide the original take on the story I was hoping for, it is a fun contemporary telling of a classic love story.
Release Date: October 1st, 2007
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