Friday, May 11, 2012

Review: Beastly by Alex Flinn

I love Beauty and the Beast retellings, so Beastly has been on my want list for a long time. So long, in fact, that it was actually one of the books I almost bought in my first order for I Write, I Read, I Review last summer.

However, people seemed hesitant to recommend Beastly. I had a lot of people advise that, with all the other books I was looking at getting, this one should be skipped. Since I was relatively new to YA and I wanted the content of my blog to be appealing to my readers, I did that.

But when I saw this new version, with both Beastly and Lindy's Diary included, I couldn't resist. The cover is really pretty and since you get the original book and the diary for the price of a paperback, I figured I was getting a bargain.

Curious to see what I thought of Beastly? Do I think it lives up to the fairy tale that inspired its creation? Read on to find out.

The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
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.

There were some fun and original ideas at play in Beastly that I found refreshing. The story is modern, not one of those epic dark tales of a poor, beautiful girl living in France. This lead to a lightness of language and modern quirks in the characters. It allowed the circumstances that lead Kyle to become a Beast be far more relatable to the type of audience this book would likely attract.

One thing I really loved were the chat room scenes with other characters who were dealing with being parts of fairy tales as well. I thought that the contrast between such a modern medium and such traditional versions of the tales being woven in modern lights to parallel what was going on in the main story was brilliant.

Unfortunately, Beastly suffered from the side effect of being a book that took place over a long period of time. That is, while time moved forward and what the characters were doing changed, and perhaps they even changed, I did not feel that I actually got to witness that depth and growth. This is a serious problem when a writer chooses to write over a long term. It's a shame that this aspect didn't work out for me, because it is a vital part of a story of this nature, but I think that too much effort was given to some aspects of the plot and not enough was given to others.

The Characters: 

Kyle, the story's Beast, is awesome. I think that Alex Flinn's decision to write from his POV made her retelling fresh and original. Watching him grow and change from this perspective allowed me to connect with him better then one normally can with the Beast in this fairy tale under normal circumstances. I like how Alex integrated the Beast's interest in roses, his wealth, etc. while still allowing Kyle to seem like a pretty normal guy as much as she could.

Lindy, on the other hand, seemed weakly done to me. There are several reasons why this might be. The most simplistic, and one that wouldn't be anyone's "fault", is that I am use to reading stories like this from the female POV. Perhaps Lindy didn't feel as developed and I didn't feel as close to her since she was not our narrator. But I think it goes deeper then that. I really didn't see a lot that made Lindy distinct as a character. True, her father breaks from the tale's trope of the loving and doting father. But that in and of itself does not make a whole and fleshed out character. Neither does her frustration at being brought to Kyle's mansion.

More interesting then Lindy were Kyle's maid and tutor. One of the things I liked most about these interactions was that as Kyle grew as a character, these two served as mirrors to showcase his generosity, growth in compassion and overall better attitude.

The Romance: 

I think this may be what disappointed me the most about Beastly. What it gained in allowing me to get closer to the beast, and in being more interesting in showing things from his POV, it lost on the romance front. It took a long time to actually get to the point where Kyle and Lindy were living together and when they did I just didn't get a lot of interest or connection from them.

In General: 

Under normal circumstances, a telling of Beauty and the Beast is a love story at heart. Here, it seemed to me, the major focus was in showcasing Kyle's growth. It was interesting and well done, but without an equally strong romantic component, Beastly did not give me what I thought I was signing up for. Sometimes that works, but in this situation, for me, it didn't. Too bad, because I was really ready to like this.


  1. Great review Kathy! I enjoyed this one too but it didn't blow my mind either. It's definitely about his growth and it was interesting to see his point of view. I enjoyed the movie too! Mostly bc it has a hot actor! :D

  2. I read this book last year and really enjoyed it. I also enjoyed the movie adaptation (Kyle's maid and tutor were interesting in the movie too) despite the changes that were made. Anyways, it led me to check out another of Flinn's books, the Sleeping Beauty retelling. That one swapped POVs so maybe that will have more of the female development that you felt was lacking here.


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