Emilia's Reviews > The Year of the Beasts

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci
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Jun 15, 2012

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bookshelves: graphic-novel, young-adult, mythology
Read from June 17 to 18, 2012

** spoiler alert ** I saw this on another blog and was instantly drawn into the book because of the cover. The cover is amazing. The expression on the girl's face shows her distaste with having snakes for hair and she looks intense and angry. From the blog posting and the cover, it seemed like this book is based on mythology, specifically, Medusa. However, after reading it, that is both true and not true. Spoilers are below!

Tessa and her younger sister, Lulu, find that jealousy begins ripping them apart after Lulu begins dating Tessa's crush. Tessa becomes very jealous and feels like she is losing her best friend and the boy she liked and also sees her sister blossoming into a young adult and gaining attention. At the same time, Tessa is falling for a boy that everyone else thinks is weird and she hides this from her sister and friends. The story culminates in Lulu being killed after they go swimming in the flooded river and the aftermath. The plot was pretty heart wrenching, although I saw it coming once Tessa, Lulu and their friends went swimming.

The book is both graphic novel and prose. It goes back and forth, and the illustrations mirror what is happening in the story. The graphic novel solely focuses on the Medusa story, except Medusa is a high school student. I had trouble figuring out how the graphic novel matched the story, but then towards the end of the book, the illustrations reflect how Tessa feels about herself and her sister. The illustrations also appear to "begin" towards the middle of the prose. Once I understood how the Medusa plot line tied in with the main plot line, it became an effective way to tell the story, but it was a little confusing at first.

I was expecting a little more Medusa and mythology from the book, so I think the cover is a little misleading. The story is mostly Tessa and her feelings, especially her jealousy of her sister and is a coming of age story, albeit, a very tragic one. I did appreciate how Tessa does not really solve any of her problems and is still grieving over her sister at the end. The ending is open ended and the reader does not know what happens to Tessa after her sister dies and after her secret boyfriend rejects her. This can be tied into the myth of Medusa, as Medusa does not have a happy ending either. However, I wish the mythology had been more apparent in the prose.

Overall, I liked the use of Medusa as an exploration of a teen's coming of age, but I feel like this wasn't utilized as well as it could have been. The cover was misleading, not only in the plot, but I was also expecting only a graphic novel.
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