I AM A BEAST
A beast. Not quite wolf or gorilla or dog, but a horrible new creature with fangs, claws, and hair springing from every pore. I ama walking monster.
You think I’m talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. And I’ll stay this way forever—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, the perfect girl, and the perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly… beastly.
Beastly is another Liz recommendation. She put it on top of my pile of books in Foyles and said “You need to read this,” so I took her at her word. It’s a fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast, which coincidentally is one of my favourite Disney films! So I was excited to see how Ms Flinn gave shape to her version.
Kyle is a horror, though it’s made pretty clear he is like that because he was raised to be. The view we get of Kyle’s home life is not a pretty one. He lives with his dad – a self-absorbed news anchor, who is obsessed with appearances – and Magda, their housekeeper. His mum walked out when he was eleven and doesn’t really seem to keep in touch. So it is just the three of them and the only way Kyle can get any attention from his dad is by succeeding at rather shallow things; his father is far more pleased when Kyle is the most popular boy in school than when he gets good grades. So it’s really not surprising he behaves the way he does.
Beastly is far more about the Beast than anything else. It has really small main cast; for all intents and purposes, it’s just Kyle, Will, Magda and the girl who’ll be his Beauty for most of the book. Though his dad and his “girlfriend” Sloan make some pretty impressive appearances as well. Impressive in how awful they are. Sloan reminded me of Glee’s Quinn before she got nice. She’s completely mercenary and all about the reputation and popularity, not love. That would be my one complaint though, that both of these villainous characters are rather static—they start out being awful people and they remain awful people, they’re pretty one dimensional in their characterisation, they don’t even become more awful toward the end of the book.
The book covers two years quickly, which makes Kyle’s transformation plausible. It makes it easy for the reader to believe that Kyle has truly become a better person through thought, personal growth and character development, even if this is initiated by the curse laid on him, instead of being magicked into a delightful and loving boy. It also gives the author the room to slowly develop the relationship between Kyle and his Beauty without having to resort to the so-oft bemoaned insta-love, that is a stock-in-trade for many YA novels. I loved how Kyle worked at wooing his girl and her slow and hesitant response. It made me root for him, in a way I think I wouldn’t have if it had been insta-love on both their parts.
Interspersed between chapters of Beastly were chat transcripts for chats held in a support group for people that have been magically transformed. I totally loved the chat transcripts, they were very funny and established magic as omni-present – though hidden – in the world of the novel. I’d love to read the stories of the other characters!
Beastly is a lovely little book and a fast read, I read it over the course of a day or so. Alex Flinn is another discovery, an author whose previous books I’ll search out at some point and whose new works I’ll keep an eye out for. If you’re a fan of fairy tales and their retellings or enjoy a good YA romance, Beastly is a book you should be sure to check out.