Monday, May 4, 2009

Beastly - Alex Flinn

Summary: 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. (Excerpt from book cover--picture from

My review: Kyle Kingsbury is the product of a workaholic father and an alcoholic mother. He’s been blessed with far too much money or good looks for his own good and has an enormous ego to match. Hot on the outside and cruel on the inside, one day he goes to far in his teasing and gets transformed into a hideous monster. Let's face it. Haven't we all wished that on someone in high school. I won't name names....but I could.

I love modern retellings. It is so fun to watch how the author incorporates the old-fashioned aspects of the story into a new age setting. I also think that it makes the story more relatable for a YA audience. Case and point. Beastly begins in a online chatroom/self-help group for people who have suffered from magical transformation. Right away we get treated to the authors humor as we meet a Beast who is desperate to date anyone, a former-prince-turned-frog complaining about the difficulties of typing with webbed feet, a mermaid contemplating the pros and cons of becoming human, a man-turned-grizzly bear in love with two women, and, of course, the completely normal moderator/group therapist. With this modern approach, I can definitely see the appeal for teen readers and, of course, it’s always fun to read from the perspective of the “bad guy” every now and then.

For me, this felt like a highly simplified, young adult version of Gregory MacGuire’s “Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister”--not so much in the details (obviously), but in the overall feel it provided with a different narrator than the standard fairytale. While the plot was fairly predictable, something difficult to avoid in retellings, the masculine perspective was creative and humorous which kept the story from getting stale. Now and then Kyle suffered from flashes of testosterone-driven male fantasies, but (thank heavens) they were always fleeting and fairly tame. There are moments that elude to adult themes, but the author steers clear of giving any actual details. Given that, I’d classify this as a 15 and up YA novel.

I read this book in about four hours (2 at night and 2 the next day). It’s about 300 pages but is smaller than the standard trade paper. I think it would be an light entertaining read for an adult or a “LOVED IT” read for a young adult—and a great escape for either.

My rating: 4 stars.

To sum it up: An entertaining, masculine twist to an old feminine classic.

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