Author: Alex Flinn
Genre: YA fairy tale fantasy
Publisher: Harper Teen
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from the public library
First line: I could feel everyone looking at me, but I was used to it.
I came across this book in a round-about way. The other day, my kids and I watched Stormbreaker, the movie based on the Alex Rider series of books. My boys loved the spy stuff; my 13-year-old daughter, Natalie, loved the star, Alex Pettyfer. (On a completely random note, I think he would be perfect to play Jace in the City of Bones movie.) Natalie checked out his Wikipedia page, and discovered that young Mr. Pettyfer is starring in a movie adaptation of the book Beastly by Alex Flinn. She borrowed the book from the library and read it in a few days, then said, “Mom, you HAVE to read this – it’s soooooo good.”
And she was right – it is soooooo good. Beastly is a modern day retelling of the fairytale “Beauty and the Beast.” Kyle Kingsbury is a sixteen-year-old at a private high school. He’s everything that every girl wants, and every guy wants to be: rich, gorgeous, charismatic. When he plays a nasty prank on an ugly girl at school, he gets the shock of a lifetime when he discovers that she is a witch. She puts a curse on him, making him as beastly on the outside as he is on the inside. He has two years to break the curse, two years in which he must find a girl who will look beyond his horrible exterior and love him.
Alex Flinn has taken the typical tale we all know so well, and peopled it with wonderful characters and the story of a shallow young man finding out that there is more to life than beauty and money, that there is value in kindness and intelligence and self-sacrifice. Kyle’s transformation goes so much deeper than his change on the outside. He is helped along the path by his blind tutor, Will (to be played by the fantastic Neil Patrick Harris in the film), and his housekeeper, Magda. They show him how to love unconditionally, how to become a person that a girl may find worthy of love.
Even though the story was predictable – how could it not be? – I was turning the pages faster and faster as I came to the end. This is a wonderful re-imagining of a tale that has much to teach us about what true beauty is.