by Alex Flinn
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
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.
(synopsis from Goodreads)
I'm a bit late to the game, as this book came out almost six years ago, and the movie adaptation is already a couple of years old (I haven't seen it yet, by the way). But a book is good or bad, no matter how old it is.
Was Beastly any good? Yes, actually, it was. I haven't read a lot of fairy-tale retellings. I should probably find and read more of them, as I tend to enjoy them. As far as I can recall, this is the third "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that I've read, the other two being Beauty by Robin McKinley and Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted. Beastly fell somewhere in between those two books for me.
The plot is... well, the plot. Flinn didn't deviate too much from the versions of this story that most of us are familiar with. The setting is New York City in the present day, with teenagers taking the lead roles. I liked reading the story from the beast's point of view. Kyle was a pretty good narrator, and we got to see his character develop and change over the course of the novel. You can't help but feel a bit sorry for him when he's cursed and loses everything... even though he really did bring it upon himself.
I also liked the inclusion of the online chats of the fairy tale creature support group. It didn't add a lot to the story, but it was kind of fun.
I quite enjoyed this book overall, but I didn't really like the ending. It felt a little rushed and empty to me, and the following epilogue was just a little too sappy for my taste. But I'm not going to fault the whole book for one weakness at the end; we all know how this story ends, after all, and I'm sure it was a challenge to come up with something that wasn't syrupy enough to give the reader a sugar rush. It's a good book, though. The message is classic, and one that desperately needs to show up in more YA books (even if it's not the main focus): looks aren't everything.
If you like fairy-tale retellings, you'll might enjoy Beastly. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it... in spite of its weaknesses.
Overall: 3.71 out of 5