Flinn, Alex. Beastly (2007). 336 Pages. HarperTeen. $16.99
I got Beastly from the library*, though I can’t for the life of me remember why I even thought of checking it out. It was a pretty good story, and though there were some moments which felt cheesy, I didn’t find it hard to suspend reality and get into the book.**
In an exclusive school full of the ultra-rich children of New York millionaires, Kyle Kingsbury is the top. His father (a newscaster) is one of the richest of the rich,*** he’s the most handsome boy in school, and he’s about to become Prince of the “Spring Dance,” which is not prom. I’m not sure why it’s not prom, because it should be, but whatever. Kyle is a jerk who gets away with anything because of his good looks.
In a moment of ultimate jerkitude, Kyle asks an unpopular goth girl to go to the dance, intending to stand her up. He has a date– the hot, slutty, dumb girl– and she’s in on the joke. Of course, Kendra (the unpopular goth girl) is more than she seems. Angered by his callousness, she curses him to become a beast. Not an animal, like a lion or a bear, but a Beast. He has two years to find his true love, and get a kiss, or he will be a beast forever.
Kyle’s father is hellbent on restoring his son to his former beauty. They visit doctor after doctor, meeting anyone who has even the slightest chance of finding a cure. When that fails, Kyle’s father loses interest in his son, and sends him to a Brooklyn brownstone with Magda the maid. Kyle begins his transformation here, when he calls his father and demands a tutor, and internet access.
Time passes, and Kyle grows closer to Will– his blind tutor– and Magda (the maid). Kyle and Will create a back yard greenhouse in which they grow roses, and things seem peaceful (though hopeless) until a drug addict breaks in. Kyle scares the man senseless, and threatens to take video footage of the break-in to the police unless he hands over his daughter. A few days later, Lind(a?, y?)**** is delivered to his door.
The progression from there is not exactly surprising. Kyle grows to care for Linda, and his plans go from trying to convince her to not hate him, to genuinely wanting to make her happy. The two seem like good friends, and they have fun together being nearly-normal teenagers. It is Beauty and the Beast, so it does follow the standard path of her leaving for her father, him nearly dying because of it, and them getting a happily-ever-after, but the setting was not all that was changed, so it manages to still be a little surprising.
Stylistically, there is one thing which bothers me; the chat sessions. Interspersed throughout the transitions in the novel are support-group “chats” for transformed teens. They didn’t add anything, and were rather annoying. I don’t care about the “little mermaid” in Denmark (or Norway, or wherever she is) or the frog prince. They were an unnecessary distraction, and did not even manage to be funny. The novel would have been better without them. Despite that, or perhaps in spite of, this novel managed to be surprisingly good.
With strong writing, and excellent narrative, this story manages to survive the transplant from “Once upon a time” to 21st century New York City without falling apart. The characters are great, and getting the story from Kyle’s perspective helps make the transformation from spoiled prince to good person very interesting, and strong. The book gets a 5/5, and I’ll have to buy a copy, since I picked this up from the library.
*I need to rant about what I found when I opened this book. There are a lot of different types of security tape for libraries. I know, I’ve put a lot of them in a lot of books. I spent a lot of time dealing with mag strips, which we installed in different spots depending upon the binding. For hard-covers, we put it in the spine. (Stretch your book out, so the gap appears between the block and the cover, we used a metal rod to put it in there.) For paperbacks, we sandwiched it between a few unimportant pages, as close to the spine as possible, so it did not interfere with reading. Well, for this particular library book, they failed miserably at that. It’s on page 1, and it’s hanging out.
** I always picture me hanging up a pair of suspenders and jumping into a book when I say “suspend reality” or “suspend disbelief.” I suppose that makes me a bit weird, but there are much worse fates, I think.
*** Are prime time news reporters really that rich?
**** She is originally introduced as Linda (when we first get her name on p. 77), but is later called Lindy (by her father, on p. 152). The two names are used interchangeably throughout, and the girl doesn’t seem to care which one she is called. This bothered me a lot, and I really could not figure out whether her name was Linda or Lindy. It’s not like one is a reasonable nickname for the other, either.
As I was browsing Ye Olde Internets, I found out that Beastly got produced as a movie, due Spring 2011. It looks… interesting.
This is a part of the Local Library Reading Challenge.