Beastly

I didn’t grow up thinking I was a princess. I didn’t wear frilly dresses. I didn’t have a sweet melodic voice. I built houses with LEGOs, drove Hot Wheels around and around the family room, and climbed every tree I could find. I was not a girly girl. But if there was one thing I had in common with many of my female friends growing up, it was that I fell in love with the tale of Beauty and the Beast.

Beastly, by Alex Flinn, is a book that was written for the Tomboy in me. This present-day retelling of Beauty and the Beast takes place in New York City and is told from the Beast’s point of view. Kyle Kingsley is the extremely good-looking son of a famous television journalist. His life is the stuff of dreams: he has a beautiful girlfriend, gets good grades, and is the most popular guy in school. Growing up privileged and spoiled has turned Kyle into a very mean person. But one day he messes with the wrong person—she happens to be a witch. He finds himself disfigured and having only two years to find true love or remain his beastly self.

Kyle has become a creature so fearsome and hideous that he tries to shut himself away from society. At first he tries to hide his appearance. This works for a few days because his dad is so busy and the housekeeper is only around during the day. But eventually his dad wants him to come out of his room and is, needless to say, shocked by what has happened to Kyle. Kyle’s dad decides that he will tell the school that Kyle has mono and take Kyle to the best doctors in the world to be transformed back. After all, throwing money at a problem has always worked for him, so why should this be any different?

Eventually giving up any hope of finding a solution to the problem, Kyle’s dad decides it’s time for him to go back to work. He leaves Kyle with his credit card and Kyle sets up his own apartment far away from his dad. To keep himself from getting too lonely, he brings along the housekeeper and hires a blind tutor. He’s now prepared to live out the rest of his life in seclusion.

But this is only half the story—the Beast’s story. Where does Beauty come in? It turns out Kyle did one small kindness in his life. He gave the corsage his prom date refused to wear to the shy girl taking the tickets at the door. Her name is Lindy, and she’s our Beauty.

Lindy lives a very different life. She’s poor and always taking care of her dad in between his drug binges. One night, the Beast catches Lindy’s dad breaking into his greenhouse full of roses and scares him off. To save himself from being arrested, Lindy’s dad promises a trade: the drugs he dropped in the greenhouse for his daughter. The Beast is desperate for company and agrees, thinking this might be his one shot at love and breaking the curse. Lindy is apprehensive and downright terrified. Wouldn’t you be, too? Will the Beast break the curse? Will Beauty even care to see the Beast as he was before? When given the chance to escape, will Beauty take it?

The library has two different versions of this book. One version is just the original story and one version includes Lindy’s Diary at the end so you can re-read the story from Lindy’s point of view. I honestly thought Lindy’s Diary was so much of an afterthought that it wasn’t really adding anything worthwhile to the story. I stopped reading it about halfway through. But maybe you’ll find it entertaining and compelling. After reading the book I discovered it had been made into a movie last year. The movie critics make it sound like skipping the movie and reading the book is the way to go. I’m sure I’ll have to see it for myself someday, but for now I’m content with just the book.

I can’t really say what it is that draws me to the story of Beauty and the Beast, but I seek it out in any form I can find it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I found this retelling by Alex Flinn to be absolutely beautiful.

Carol