Review posted January 20, 2009.
HarperTeen, New York, 2007. 304 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008: #3, Fantasy Teen Fiction
Here's a wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast, set in modern-day New York City, told from the beast's perspective.
I just saw the Twilight movie, and now I'm going to recommend Beastly to people who like the movie but don't want to wait for 900 people on the request list for Twilight. Although there are no vampires, Beastly has the same flavor of supernatural romance, told with beautiful writing.
Kyle Kingsbury knows he is the sure winner for ninth-grade prince of the spring dance court. No one can compete with his looks and his dad's cash. When a creepy goth girl challenges the whole idea of voting based on looks, he reacts.
She pissed me off, so I jumped on her. "If someone's so smart, they'd figure out how to get better-looking. You could lose weight, get plastic surgery, even get your face scraped and your teeth bleached." I emphasized the you in the sentence, so she'd know I meant her and not just some general sort of you. "My dad's a network news guy. He says people shouldn't have to look at ugly people."
Later, Kyle thinks of a way to get her back for her disturbing words. A way to utterly humiliate her at the spring dance.
The author convinces us that he completely deserves his curse: to become a beast until he finds "someone willing to look beyond your hideousness and see some good in you, something to love. If you will love her in return and if she will kiss you to prove it, the spell will be lifted, and you will be your handsome self again. If not, you'll stay a beast forever."
When Kyle's Dad is convinced that doctors can't cure him, he rents Kyle a house in another part of the city with a housekeeper and a tutor, with thick shutters against the outside. Kyle slowly shows the beginnings of transformation as he learns to grow roses and loves them. So then when a junkie crashes into his greenhouse....
I love the way Alex Flinn worked in all the elements of the traditional tale. I also loved the believable way she showed us Kyle changing, transforming. And of course there's the wonderful blooming of true love.
Between all that drama, there are hilarious interludes of transcripts from a chat room, the Unexpected Changes chat group, hosted by Mr. Anderson. There's a mermaid called SilentMaid, a former prince called Froggie, and someone called Grizzlyguy who's met these two girls, Rose Red and Snow White (not *that* Snow White).
All this adds up to a truly delightful book that I hope will become wildly popular with teens. And any adults who will admit to enjoying Twilight, let me urge you to give Beastly a try.