Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Picks & Pans

I just finished Beastly by Alex Flinn, and while I enjoyed it, I didn't feel it would be honest if I gave it my "Amazing Book Alert" label.

It's a modern-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, from the beast's perspective.  The premise is great, and the synopsis is killer:

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 a perfect life. And then, I’ll tell you how I became perfectly beastly.

Seriously, if I could bottle that and use it to write a query letter, I would be published already.  It was the whole reason I squealed and finagled a sample from my Harper rep.
But from the first page, I found the story off-putting.  It opens in a chatroom, where famous fairy tail characters such as The Little Mermaid and The Frog Prince are all using pseudonyms to get acquainted with one another, bonding over their transformations from one form of life to another.  The chatroom sequences occur throughout the book, and I didn't see how they added any value to the story.  If anything, they were kind of cutesy-annoying and definitely unnecessary.
The other thing that really bothered me was Kyle's age.  At the onset of the story, he is fourteen years old, experienced beyond his years, and equally arrogant.  Maybe I'm about to show my old lady side here, but he's having sex at fourteen.  FOURTEEN!  Believe, me I'm not clueless enough to think it doesn't happen, but it's approached in such a casual manner that I had to balk.  I know realism is not the goal in fairy tales, but I think it would have been more realistic if Kyle were at least sixteen, if not eighteen.  It didn't make sense for a freshman to have that much clout.  Or that much sex.
Anyhow, once he's cursed with his beastliness, the deal is that he must find true love within two years.  When someone can love him in spite of his looks, and prove it with a kiss, the curse will be broken.
Now here's the part I liked.  *Sort of spoilery so here's your opportunity to stop reading*  The girl he winds up falling for is not someone "hot" in the conventional sense.  In fact, the first two times he sees her, he thinks she's plain.  It's not until he starts getting to know her that he sees things he hadn't noticed before, like the green in her eyes, or the way the sun makes her red hair look like gold.  It REALLY would have annoyed me if she was some obvious beauty and he lusted for her right off the bat.  Why?  Because I think it's easier for girls to see past a person's looks, anyway.  Maybe that's biased, but try to imagine the story in reverse, where a guy has to fall for a girl who has hair springing from every pore.  See what I mean?  So the fact that there were a million other reasons he thought she was too good for him made me like him quite a bit, and like her even more.
The end is as you would expect: curse broken, lesson learned.  And there were no really good makeout scenes, despite the curse-breaking catalyst being a kiss.  I want my makeout scenes, damn it.  I expect much better from the next book I'm going to read, Anna and the French Kiss.  With a title like that, it better not disappoint!


  1. if there's anything i can guarantee you it's that the love in anna will be totally buy-able. :)

  2. I was just at the bookstore and my daughter kept shoving this book at me, but I wasn't sure... thanks for the report, I think I made a better choice.

  3. My wife wanted to see the movie after catching the trailer. I'll tell her about this book so she can read it first.

  4. The movie seems totally different from the book. I saw the trailer and even in his "beast" state, he's still pretty hot. Not a hairy pore in sight. In fact, he's bald as q-ball. And what's plain about Vanessa Hudgens? Not sure how I feel about it!

  5. Hmmm, I like the sound of the premise, but it doesn't sound like - overall - it was delivered in a way I'd probably run out and read. I won't lie. A guy having blatant sex and being comfortable & arrogant about it probably would feel a little weird to me too. 18, I'd expect it. 14 would still surprise me a little.