Tags: YA, retelling, NYC, transformation, love
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Kyle Kingsbury is the most popular, most beautiful, and most well-liked guy at Tuttle, his fancy private NYC high school, and he knows it. So why should he even bother to give that weird girl in his English class the time of day, when he can get the hottest girl in the school? However, his cruel treatment of others results in a witch casting a spell over him, making him ugly so that his anchorman father puts him away in a five-story Brooklyn brownstone, shut away from the world.
Kyle—who renames himself “Adrian”—has only one chance to break this spell: he must fall in love with a girl within two years, and have her love him back. But Adrian believes this is impossible. Who is going to love him when no one can even bear to look at him?
The thing with retellings of famous stories isn’t the suspense: it’s how the author does to liven an oft-told tale. Alex Flinn does a respectable job of retelling the beloved “Beauty and the Beast.” I was most impressed by Kyle/Adrian’s transformation from spoiled rich brat to a caring and kind individual. The process and subtleties of his maturing were done well.
But it is not just Adrian’s growth that makes him so likable. Even at the beginning, when he irked me with his superior attitude and gag-inducing way of approaching life (“I am beautiful and thus I deserve everything I want and get”), he was still vulnerable and hurt, with that horrible father of his. I would’ve liked more insight into what made Kyle/Adrian the person he was—clearly his parents had something to do with it—but overall he was a great protagonist.
Unfortunately the book began to fall apart for me when Lindy, the “Belle” of the story, was introduced. While I loved hearing Adrian’s worried thoughts about the impression he makes on her, I was less than impressed with Lindy’s character. She is a bookworm with a difficult family life, and that was fine, but I got no sense of chemistry between Lindy and Adrian. In fact, the more I learned about Lindy, the more annoyed I was with her character: this nerdy girl who initially seemed so resourceful and strong-willed dissolved into a pathetic, hot-boy-crushing damsel-in-distress at the end.
Lindy aside, I really enjoyed BEASTLY, with its approachable writing style and likable “Beast” protagonist. It’s definitely refreshing to look at this old fairy tale from the Beast’s point of view. While I can think of a number of better “Beauty and the Beast” retellings that are out there, BEASTLY’s simple writing and straightforward characters will appeal to middle schoolers and early high schoolers who enjoy fairy tale retellings with a dash of romance and a strong male protagonist.
Jane Yolen (Briar Rose)
Gail Carson Levine (The Wish)
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5