First Novels Club's Reviews > Beastly

Beastly by Alex Flinn
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's review
Jun 30, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: donna, reviewed

I sat down to read the first five pages of Beastly, and I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It hooked me, sucked me in, and even though I KNEW what was going to happen, I couldn't wait to see HOW it happened.

I think that's the appeal of these re-tellings -- we're not reading them for plot twists or whatnot; we're reading to see how the story goes from "Once Upon a Time" to "The End."

I'm definitely a fan of Beastly. I've read Beauty and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley, and I enjoyed both, but this was the first foray into the Beast's POV that I loved. Flinn used a mix of modern settings/language and ancient concepts (beauty, kindness, etc) to create Kyle Kingson's world. Who is Kyle? The gorgeous, snobby, elitist, cruel rich kid everyone loves to hate. Seriously, seriously hate-able guy.

So how did Flinn modernize B&tB? Beyond the modern-day New York City setting, Flinn put Kyle in an exclusive prep school and made him the son of an emotionally-absent nightly news anchor. His mother abandoned him, too -- which gives him just enough of a backstory to elicit sympathy from the reader.

With the help of the requisite witch, magic mirror, rose, and curse, Kyle transforms into a beast (fangs, claws, fur, etc.) -- his outward appearance finally matching his personality. His loving father banishes him to a 5-story Brooklyn brownstone to stay out of the public eye. His only company -- a longtime maid and a blind tutor -- of course become his only friends. He joins a "transformation" chat room with various other fairy tale characters to discuss his life (some reviewers liked this; I thought it was fun in concept but would've preferred to do without).

Side note about names: Kyle means "handsome," and the love interest, Linda, means "beautiful." I appreciated the effort Flinn put in to making layered meanings. When Kyle changed his name to Adrian ("darkness"), it was also an outward sign of his inward transformation to a much more complex character.

Like in the traditional story, Linda entered Adrian's (formerly Kyle's) beastly life because of her father. Except that her father's a drug addict, who gets caught breaking into Adrian's greenhouse and trades his youngest daughter for no police involvement and the return of his precious drugs. Definitely not the stuff of fairy tales! (Actually, with how disturbing original fairy tales are, it's exactly the stuff of fairy tales -- just not the Disney kind.)

From that point on, it's wonderful to watch their relationship evolve, along with Adrian's character transformation. I finished Beastly feeling entirely satisfied with Flinn's take on the story.

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