Beastly by Alex Flinn


About the book:
Author: Alex Flinn
Publisher: HarperTeen
Find the Review Elsewhere: Goodreads
Publication Date: 2008
Genre: Teen, Fantasy, Fairy Tale, Adaptation
Rating: 4 out of 5

Synopsis: Kyle Kingsbury is a vain fifteen-year-old whose only source of parental affection is guaranteed so long as he is constantly considered among the “beautiful people,” otherwise his workaholic father has even less time for him. After his plan to get back at the long-rumored witch Kendra backfires, Kyle is left a beast – a curse Kendra spun on him in order that the world may see him on the outside as he is on the inside: ugly. When he is banished to the "middle of nowhere," Kyle must learn to cope with his new… beastly appearance and has only his tutor for company. Two years. That is all the time he has to “fix” things. In order to break the curse, he must find someone to love him unconditionally… and he to return that love… or he will remain as he is… forever.

Review: as any fairy-tale should, the movie adaptation of the same name thoroughly enchanted me. I didn’t know exactly what I’d think of it before watching it, but it was something I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. After two of my blog friends (thanks, girls!) convinced me I should read the novel, and being such a fan of the film, I picked up a copy and begin a story I hoped would be just as enjoyable as the one that came alive on my television screen.

One thing I immediately picked up on in this novel was how juvenile the story is. It is understandable considering it is actually geared towards teenagers, but if I thought the movie was so, the book is ten times more so. Told in the first person, nearly every thought that flits through Kyle’s mind is not only selfish (although he comes across much more so in the film) but also incredibly immature. A kid who’d been raised with every advantage perhaps wouldn’t be very grown-up, but as someone who is not the target audience of the book (nor a girl who was raised in such an environment), it kind of wears thin. Still, the novel is nothing if not an entertaining, easy read. Where the movie is geared more towards pre-teens and teens with its pretty-faced young cast, I think it is more easily transitional towards a young adult audience or even a wider group (my mom loved the story), but here, the book is at a disadvantage – it just doesn’t have that. Thankfully, screen writers cleaned up the movie a bit where its source material had more rampant profanity and sexual overtures, but then on the other hand, the book can sometimes have more depth - or more specifically, the reader is invited inside Kyle’s head (obviously). We are able to understand what his feelings are, what he is going through… his transformation from internal ugliness to lasting love.  

Instead of making countless reference of book vs. script, I’ve decided to list which outcome I like better in the two – only beware, there are spoilers!
  • Script: in the novel, Kyle’s appearance is described so that the reader will think more of the Disney film’s vision of a “beast.” The movie wins in regards to a beastly appearance. Make-up artists did a fabulous job of creating a hideous look without the audience finding it impossible that a human would fall for Kyle. In other words, the idea that Lindy would be attracted to a literal beast is way “out there.” I understand that is the whole point – that a girl was supposed to love Kyle for who he was and not his looks, but still… there has to be something that urges a person to want to build a friendship; if Kyle looked like a beast, Lindy would have taken one look and been likely to run screaming from the house – I would have!
  • Script: Lindy’s first appearance in the novel is so unassuming and brushed aside (it’s as if she is not going to play an important role) whereas the second time Kyle is with her in the film, there is a definite “pull,” or connection between them – his armor cracks ever so slightly in her presence.
  • Book: author Alex Flinn definitely makes Kyle more approachable and less-detestable. He even accepts his tutor in a quicker period of time and their friendship is well-written.
  • Script: maybe it is just because I am a romantic, but I liked that Kyle created the garden for Lindy and not himself. It displayed that he was thinking of someone else – and not just himself. On the flip side, the book has him tirelessly working to create a space (a suite of rooms) that Lindy will feel at home in, a place where she can read for hours and dream. So perhaps, to be fair that is a toss-up.
  • Book: the similarities to the Disney film are charming. (Minus the whole hairy-beast-thing!) From a magical mirror and dramatic, selfless gesture in letting Lindy go to rose petals, Alex paid a beautiful homage to the iconic fairy-tale.
  • Book: the script doesn’t paint a terrible ending or leave the audience with an unpleasant taste, but the novel has a more charming ending in my opinion. There doesn’t have to be a “deepening of a kiss” or a sweeping score to end a story, instead sometimes it’s the simple things, the more innocent things that endear a story and the fact that Kyle’s last words embrace that makes me glad to have read the novel – even if nothing else would have.
Anyone who enjoyed the feature film will appreciate the book. I cannot say that I liked one over the other better (although I am leaning more towards the film). I know the movie will be something I’ll watch again, but am not sure if I’ll read the novel again or not. It was a fun read, but overall it wasn’t impressive, even when considering its genre. 


Conclusion: at the risk of undoing everything I have just written, Beastly is a good read. I wouldn’t recommend it to any of the pre-teen or young teen girls I know, but for older girls, it is a satisfying fairy-tale. It was compelling enough to get me to read late into the night in order to finish it – and that is always a “good” sign. 


For anyone not completely “tired” of talking about this story, what are your thoughts? Let me know your opinions below…
QuickEdit
Rissi
10 Comments

10 comments:

  1. I thought this book was an interesting twist on the Beauty & the Beast story, but not without its problems (as you discuss). Good review!

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  2. I agree with you one hundred percent--the book is more on the juvenile side. But hey, I had to do it for my column =)

    Loved reading your thoughts!

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  3. I have never read the book. Sounds good though!
    Thank you for following my blog ;)
    As you can see, i now follow your awesome blog ;)

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  4. Ruth - it is an interesting twist. As I said in my post, I liked how Alex worked those things into the novel, more so than the script did.

    Ella - I am VERY happy you are using "Beastly" for the "Fur & Fangs" issue of Femnista! I cannot wait! It was fun putting the book post together since I tried something slightly different.

    Rebekah - "Beastly" is an entertaining, quick read, but I was a little disappointed in the profanity. I think the movie adaptation tones that down a bit. Enjoy the novel if you ever read it - and if so, you'll have to share your thoughts. =)

    And, thank YOU for following! I love my readers input on my posts, so please visit and comment as often as you like. Your blog looks like it will be a fun one to follow. =)

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  5. I think I prefer the film to the book overall - but I am such a sucker for fairy tale adaptations that I'm awfully glad I discovered Flinn's writing!

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  6. Me, too! I am a BIG fan of fairy-tales, no matter how sappy they are. ;D

    Yeah, I am interested in picking up another book of Alex's because there were a couple "previews" at the end of "Beastly," and they had me hooked - plus she has something new coming out later this year or early 2012.

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  7. Her upcoming book is Kendra's story! I am really curious about it, especially after Kendra's portrayal in the Beastly film!

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  8. OH. MY. GOSH! That does sound awesome! I had no idea it was about Kendra. She will be an interesting study. Thanks for that, Ruth! I'd just seen a pre-order on Amazon for a novel by Alex. So cool. =)

    And, yes, Mary-Kate did a great job in "Beastly" as Kendra.

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  9. While I enjoyed the film, I reallly loved the book. Great review.

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  10. To me, the film just had a better direction. The novel was really for the "tween" reading group, and that isn't me anymore. HOWEVER, I did enjoy the book - a lot, I just think the movie was more to my taste.

    Thanks for all your kind comments, Juju! =)

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