Saturday, October 16, 2010

SLIS 5420 - Module 8 - Beastly

Module 8 - Beastly by Alex Flinn

Flinn, Alex. Beastly. HarperCollins Children's Books, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-06-087416-2

In this fun retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story, the Beast is the narrator and we get to experience his inner transformation. This story follows the original legends fairly closely. There are some small twists and of course, the setting of modern day New York City changes things, too.

What I Thought
I enjoyed that the author chose to tell the story from the Beast's viewpoint. This gives the story a guy-friendly twist that a romantic fairy-tale wouldn't otherwise have. The author writes in a note at the end of the story that the fairy tale is very much a story "of two abandoned teens who find one another" (p. 303). This is a very satisfying way to understand the story: the Beauty of the story is abandoned by her father and the Beast is abandoned due to his appearance (which of course is the outside being made manifest to the world by the witch/fairy).

Reading this story, you definitely know what is going to happen. We know the fairy tale. We know how things turn out. However, you can't help rooting for the Beast in this story. Kyle (the Beast) is such a self-obsessed pretty-boy jerk at the beginning of the story. His inner transformation as he learns to love and care for others in this story is enjoyable to read. The author reveals his changes slowly, pulling away layers of his selfish protection bit by bit. His final triumph is just as satisfying in every other Beauty and the Beast story.

Outside Reviews
"Flinn is known for her gritty novels that openly address serious issues such as peer pressure and domestic abuse. This spin-off of "Beauty and the Beast" is no exception. Kyle Kingsbury is good looking, rich, a ladies man, and one of the most popular students at Tuttle High School. He's the type who everyone wants to be or be around. However, while he might be beautiful on the outside, he is selfish, arrogant, and cruel on the inside. Kendra, an unattractive and unpopular girl who Kyle never noticed before, refers to his behavior as "beastly." To get even with her for that remark, he publicly humiliates her at the school dance, sealing his fate. Later that night, Kendra reveals to Kyle that she is a witch, and that she is going to teach him the most important lesson of his life. The author explores important values through the depiction of Kyle and the people who are there for him (and those who are not) after his transformation. The story is well written and grips readers right from the beginning with an online chat session with Kyle/Beast and other fairy-tale characters. And, since it's told from the Beast's point of view, it will appeal to boys who otherwise might not pick it up. Beastly has romance, true love, tragic circumstances, magic, action adventure, and hope. It's a must-read for all fairy-tale fans, and has a knockout cover to boot."

Rosenblum, D. (2007). Beastly. School Library Journal, 53(11), 122. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.

"Flinn delivers a lighthearted and contemporary twist on Beauty and the Beast, and while there is nothing shocking nor any striking departure from the original, her retelling is eminently satisfying. Kyle Kingsbury is a gorgeous high school freshman, spoiled rotten by his famous anchorman father, a man who'd rather dole out cash than affection. Kyle attends the exclusive Tuttle School in New York City and torments those poor unfortunates who lack his looks and wealth. When he humiliates a girl at school, she transforms him into a horrific-looking creature. Kyle's only hope for breaking the spell lies in finding true love--as he reports online in meetings of the Unexpected Changes chat group (other members include Froggie and the mermaid Silent Maid). Flinn follows the fairy tale's original plot points closely, but falters in her depiction of the story's bad guys, over-the-top caricatures that simply ring false in her up-to-date setting. Kyle's father, for example, spends literally three minutes with him each day, the time it takes him to heat his dinner in the microwave. Even so, the happily-ever-after ending is rewarding, if not surprising."

(2007). Beastly. Publishers Weekly, 254(43), 58. Retrieved from Academic Search Complete database.

Using this Book in the Library
This book is makes a great addition to other fairy-tale inspired books. An excellent display of a mix of YA, juvie and adult books can be made with Beastly,  Jane Yolen's Briar Rose, the graphic novel series, Fables and Jack of Fables, Firebird by Mercedes Lackey, War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, Neil Gaiman's stories such as Anansi Boys, Stardust and the Sandman series, The Sisters Grimm books by Michael Buckley and Birdwing by Rafe Martin. There are even more wonderful myth and fairy-tale spin-offs out there, and of course there are many wonderful picture-book adaptations. Expanding the list to include classic Greek and Roman myths opens up even more books for this fun display. From my experiences recommending fairy-tale spin-offs, patrons who enjoy fairy tales will read any age-range book: they are looking for the fun of getting into the fairy-tale world.

For Fun:
A movie version of this book is coming out in March, 2011. Looks good! This is the official movie website and here's a trailer for the movie:

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