Beastly by Alex Flinn
My rating: 1 of 5 stars
I read Beastly back in September, but I was reminded of it yesterday when I saw a copy with its shiny new movie tie-in cover sitting on a pile of books at work. Apparently back in September I gave it two stars, but looking back I really have to revise my decision, because I kind of thought it was awful. Awful enough to get ranty at the mere sight of it.
Let me start by saying my very favorite of all fairy tales (and my favorite Disney movie) is Beauty and the Beast and there is nothing I love more than an awesome Beauty and the Beast retelling. Which is why I picked up Beastly, despite being initially put off by the framing device of the main character airing his woes in a chatroom populated by other fairy tale characters (the Little Mermaid, the Frog Prince, etc.). I hate this because IM speak is terrible enough to have to read on the internet, please don't put it in my literature.
The other problem with the chatroom is a problem with the book in general: it's total and complete lack of subtlety. Absolutely nowhere in this book is any shred of attempt to conceal the Beauty and the Beast-ness of the plot. It is quite literally Beauty and the Beast, just moved to present-day New York. Which frankly doesn't work terribly well. Elements like the girl's father giving her to the beast or the beast hiding away in the middle of Brooklyn just don't translate. And parts of the original story, like his affinity for roses, I felt were just chucked in there so you couldn't possibly mistake this for anything other than Beauty and the Beast. And the chatroom loses all semblance of disguise. These characters are literally there being like, "Hey, I'm the Little Mermaid, what's poppin'?"
Furthermore, the main character of Kyle Kingsbury (who then changes his name to Adrian, for no other reason than for the girl to not be able to recognize him as the bully she went to school with) is so radically unlikeable and even when he changes to be a better person, is uninteresting and kind of dumb, really.
I'm a little intrigued by the movie, only because even just from the poster, things are clearly different than the book. For one thing, in the book he's just a beast, none of this weird scarred/tattooed nonsense. And Neil Patrick Harris is in it, but who knows what scripts people will pick up for a paycheck.
What really surprises me is the rave reviews of this book, which led me to pick it up in the first place. If you really want an AWESOME Beauty and the Beast retelling, here are some ones I'd recommend over this, any day:
Beauty: A Retelling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast by Robin McKinley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The original and still the best. Also, says 12+, but I would say it's appropriate for the 9-12 set as well.
Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
McKinley's second crack at the story is not quite as good, but skewed a little older and still worth your time. Again, the publisher is saying adult, I remember this as YA, though, and Amazon concurs with me.
The Fire Rose by Mercedes Lackey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Technically an adult sci-fi/fantasy novel, but if I remember correctly, nothing inappropriate for the YA set and certainly over 15.
Beauty and the Beast by Nancy Willard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A storybook, but satisfies our Beauty and the Beast in New York City need ad includes beautiful wood engraving illustrations.