Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Beastly by Alex Flinn ****

This is a paranormal YA book with A Message, but it's done in an entertaining way that keeps it from being too preachy. I read it (audio) for 2 reasons - 1, I've known the narrator since he was a child, and 2, the movie is coming in a few months and I like to read the book before I see the movie.

Chris was great as narrator - as I knew he would be - giving different voices to each of the characters, and overcoming what I think would be a major challenge for narrators: several sections of internet chat room dialogue. He managed to make that part comprehensible, so kudos because having to read each character's name before each chat line while conveying that they are writing, not speaking, is surely a stumbling block. Chris does have a good, deep, fully adult voice in the book, even though I still see him as an adolescent so I found his adolescent voice believable if sometimes a little annoying (on purpose, I assume).

This is sort of a Beauty and the Beast story, but told from the Beast POV.

The "hero" of the book, written in first person POV (other than the chat room speak), is teenager Kyle Kingsbury. Kyle is a BMOC - he's going to be crowned Prince of the Prom or Homecoming or whatever, and he's good looking, rich, loved by all, and looks down on anyone who isn't good looking, rich and loved by all. He angers a new student at his private school - someone who doesn't fit into his crowd and who turns out to be a witch. (dang, I hate it when that happens) To bring Kyle down to size, she turns him into a beast - an awful, scary, ugly, hairy creature who must earn the luv of a good woman (rather, girl - he's a teenager after all) within 2 years or remain the beast forevah.

Kyle learned his obnoxious behavior from his father, a news anchor who stresses the importance of good looks over all other considerations and never really has time for his son. Or his ex-wife, who took off years ago (or maybe she died - but there's no mom in the picture now). Now Kyle has to learn to live on his wits - and in his Beast form, he learns that all his relationships (mostly at school) were as shallow as he was. He basically has to completely rebuild his life, even taking on a new name, to earn his way back to having his body back.

I can see from the movie trailer that the FX look good but hey, instead of hairy, he's bald, no hair, and has some growth on his face that is sort of tattoo-ish. Hmmm. Anyway, I must say, I was concerned Beastly was going to have the same kind/amount of teen angst that Twilight had, and so I prepped myself for it. Knowing there was going to be A Message, I think I set my expectations rather low, but it truly did rise above that. Beyond The Message content was some pretty fun world-building (in the chat rooms, with the mermaid, the frog and ... the others) and some real-world relationship building, and not just with the One Who Can Save Him. It wasn't just that he had to learn A Lesson By Himself, it was almost more a journey started by stripping him of everything he knew, and forcing him to rethink everything he had learned. Aw, maybe that doesn't make sense, but I was so glad that Twilight/teen angst thing was not emphasized that I enjoyed it more than I expected to.

So, 5 stars for Chris and 4 stars for Beastly.

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