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Alex Flinn – Beastly

July 22, 2011

89. Beastly by Alex Flinn (2007)

Read By: Chris Patton
Length: 6h 46min (336 pages)

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Fairy Tale

Started: 30 June 2011
Finished: 07 July 2011

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Young adult fantasy and fairy tale retelling? Sounds like my kind of book!

In a world where looks
matter more than anything,
what’s a Beast to do?

Summary: Beastly is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the Beast’s perspective, set in modern-day New York. Kyle Kingsbury is the most popular guy in his elite private school; he’s certainly the best-looking, and his famous father’s wealth doesn’t hurt anything, either. On the night of a school dance, his arrogance and self-centeredness finally manages to piss off Kendra, an ugly and unpopular girl… who also happens to be a witch. Cursed with a horrible, inhuman appearance, Kyle is abandoned by his father and shunned by his former friends, and becomes housebound, with only Marta, his housekeeper, and Will, a blind tutor, for company. Kendra has told him that the curse can be broken if he can find a girl who will love him despite his beast-like exterior… but for Kyle’s used to getting by on his looks. Can he change what’s inside in time to break the spell?

Review: I love fairy-tale retellings, but they’re always a tricky balance between maintaining enough elements of the original story while changing enough things so that it’s not just a straight repetition of something we’ve heard a thousand times before. I think Beastly hit that balance very well, giving us a new perspective on the familiar classic while still hewing very closely to many elements of the original. The update to modern times is done very well; there’s still magic, and still a fairy-tale feeling to the thing, but there are also clever touches like Kyle being a Prince by having him be elected to the court for the dance. The reasons for Beauty’s father abandoning her to captivity at the Beast’s house – a tricky element in a modern moral climate – were equally well done. (She’s not named Beauty in the book, of course, although neither is she named at random… something I didn’t catch until at least halfway through the book, at which point I groaned and smacked myself for being thick.)

However, because this book sticks so closely to tradition, it wound up being pretty predictable as well. In particular, I felt like the love story was a little rushed; she goes from hating and fearing him to loving him pretty fast, and at times it seemed like her conversion was more because “that’s how the story goes” than due to actual emotion. Setting the story from the Beast’s point of view, while interesting and not something I’ve read before, also created some cognitive dissonance in the beginning. I get that the Beast needs to be thoroughly unlikeable in the beginning so that he can change over the course of the story, but ye gods, I spent at least the first quarter of the book wanting to punt Kyle down a flight of stairs, nevermind cursing him with beastitude – a weird position to be in with the putative protagonist. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: It’s not my favorite of the Beauty and the Beast retellings that I’ve ever read – that prize would go to Mercedes Lackey’s The Fire Rose – but despite a few flaws, it’s a well-done update of the classic story that manages to be traditional and creative at the same time. Recommended for fans of YA fantasy and fairy tales, particularly those who are interested in the POV of someone other than the princess.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Alita Reads, All About {n}, The Book Zombie, Books and Movies, It’s All About Books, and more at the Book Blog Search Engine.
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Mr. Anderson: Welcome to the first meeting of the Unexpected Changes chat group.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2011 8:39 am

    I read this a few months back and immediately thought that this would be one of those books where the film version will probably be much better. (*looking up to sky* will I be struck by lightning?)

    I did like the chat room element and will perhaps pick up his other book because I (a) adore fairy tale retellings and (b) it’s a quick read.


    • August 1, 2011 9:22 am

      christina – I’m on the fence about the chat room parts. They were cute, and funny, but they also created a little bit of cognitive dissonance for me; these kids were obviously all raised on Disney movies, so it makes the whole “what’s happening to me???” element a little harder to believe. You’ve read the stories and seen the movies, kid, you figure it out!

  2. July 22, 2011 11:21 am

    I recently reviewed Beastly. I haven’t really read any other retellings of this, so I don’t have any comparisons to make. Great review!

    • August 1, 2011 9:23 am

      Annette – Beauty by Robin McKinley is I think the standard, but I’d definitely recommend The Fire Rose as well.

  3. July 22, 2011 12:10 pm

    I’ve had this out from the library but still haven’t read it… One of these days I will!

    • August 1, 2011 9:24 am

      Kailana – It’s not top priority, I think, but it’s definitely fun, and should be a quick read.

  4. July 22, 2011 12:27 pm

    Great review! Skip the film, by the way – it was terrible.

    • August 1, 2011 9:24 am

      Carrie – Terrible terrible? Or terrible-but-secretly-awesome-if-you-have-enough-fruity-cocktails-to-go-with-it?

  5. July 22, 2011 1:05 pm

    Maybe I’ve read the wrong ones, but I find all fairy tale retellings to be predictable. My sister loves them, though. I’ll probably skip this one.

    • August 1, 2011 10:02 am

      Kathy – I think the predictability thing is a necessary evil of re-telling a story that everyone knows, but on the other hand, the best re-tellings add enough of a new perspective or a new wrinkle to the story that there can still be elements that are surprising, even if the overall story arc is conserved.

  6. July 22, 2011 2:20 pm

    I haven’t read many (or any?) other retellings of Beauty & the Beast, but I really liked Beastly. I’ve added The Fire Rose to my library list – it sounds fantastic!

    • August 1, 2011 10:03 am

      Alita – I hope you like it! It’s part of a loose series (same world, different characters, I think) of fairy tale retellings, but I haven’t yet read any of the others.

  7. July 22, 2011 3:58 pm

    I read this book a while ago and I was reasonable entertained, but not wowed away. I still like Robin Mckinley’s re-telling best. But I’ve never read the Mercedes Lackey version!! Must. Read. !! Also, have you watched the film version? (or is it a TV show?)

    • August 1, 2011 10:04 am

      Sharry – I liked Robin McKinley’s Beauty well enough (although don’t get me started on Rose Daughter), but I thought it stuck too close to the original, without enough new elements to catch my attention.

      And I haven’t seen the movie, but it’s on my netflix queue!

  8. July 24, 2011 1:33 am

    I know I shouldn’t judge a book by its movie, but…er…the movie looks SO TERRIBLE that I want to run away screaming from anything related to it. And normally I really like fairy tale retellings!

    • August 1, 2011 10:12 am

      Anastasia – Oh, it does look terrible, but it looks kind of terrible in a really fantastically hilarious way.

      The book, though, is pretty good. :)

  9. July 24, 2011 3:09 pm

    Is this the book that was made into a movie recently? I am out of touch with the YA world, so I wasn’t even aware that fairy tale retellings were all the rage. I better get on top of that because my girls will hopefully be reading these types of novels before I know it.

    • August 1, 2011 10:13 am

      LitHouse – I don’t know that they’re “all the rage”, but there’s definitely quite a few of them around. If you (or your daughters) need recommendations, I’m always happy to help!

  10. August 11, 2011 8:49 pm

    Maybe I will read this one, after all. I’m a sucker for a well-told fairy tale, particularly those that put a twist on an old tale. Have you read Beast by Donna Jo Napoli? It’s another revisioning of the “Beauty and the Beast” fairy tale told from the Beast’s perspective. It’s been a while since I read it, but I think I remember enjoying it.

  11. rose permalink
    December 27, 2011 10:17 pm

    if you read the book did you notice that in the chat room where he talks to other fairy tale creatures they are actually stories from other novels like snow white and rose red is a novel by patricia wrede i found out just now

  12. May 8, 2012 7:13 pm

    100% sucked every single part in it.A five year old could of wrote this.


  1. Beastly (2011) – Review (A Hidden Beauty) « bardicblogger

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