Terri's Reviews > The Year of the Beasts

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci
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Oct 11, 2012

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CLN - Printz possibility #3

"The Year of the Beast," which is getting some Printz buzz, is told in alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel formats. The prose chapters concern two sisters, Tessa and Lulu. When Tessa's younger sister:

1. gets the boy Tessa thinks she likes, Charlie
2. starts hanging out with Tessa's best friend, Celina
3. grows taller and more beautiful

Tessa is consumed with jealousy. Because of her envy, she makes Lulu's life miserable, all the while carrying on a secret relationship with an edgy, outcast boy, Jasper. Her jealousy leads to tragedy and loss. The alternating chapters, told in graphic novel format, use Medusa mythology as a metaphor for Tessa's story - the water imagery, the hair, the jealousy, are all there. They foreshadow what will happen to Tessa and her sister. We know early on in the book where this is all going to lead.

I liked the unusual format of this novel - it made for a fast read. I enjoyed some of the characters, especially the edgy, "alternative" parents and Jasper. However, all of the characters could have been more well-developed.

I did not like how misleading the opening was for me. As I read, "They rolled into town in the middle of the day: large covered wagons and flatbed trucks hauling disassembled rides that looked like futuristic dinosaur bones," I was thinking "Something Wicked This Way Comes"? "Night Circus"? I expected a dark, mysterious story about the circus. I got a somewhat tedious novel about childish jealousies. Tessa's petty jealousies and immature ploys to pay her sister back - for what I am not sure - got tiresome. She was not a likeable character. Therefore, when her world fell apart, it was difficult to feel any sympathy for her. She was cruel to everyone she loved and cared about, and ended up destroying them all. And, this was another one of those "literary" books that will probably win awards this season and that most teens won't persist through. How many of them will have any understanding of the Medusa mythology that makes up the core of the graphic novel chapters in the book? Many of the "literary" aspects of the book will be lost on many teens. As an adult with some knowledge of this myth, I could appreciate and mostly understand what the authors were getting at. And, while I appreciate authors who believe in the ability of teens and write "smart" books, their expectations can be totally unrealistic at times. And I deplore it when adults award "teen" books that teens have no interest in.

So, while, I had no trouble getting through the book (it did keep my interest), I don't think most teens will enjoy it. I have had it on display for the entire school year and no one has picked it up. It will require hand selling - the cover doesn't help.
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