Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beastly - Alex Finn


Of all the Disney movies, Beauty and the Beast is one of the Nawrot favorites. My husband and I bought the laser disc (yes I know I'm dating myself, but no snarky comments allowed) before we ever had kids. The animation, in my opinion, is nearly unparallelled for its time. I was intrigued, therefore, when I heard about this modern-day YA adaptation, which will be released as a motion picture this summer.

The story starts out cleverly with on online chat room conversation between a group of cursed creatures (a frog, a mermaid turned silent maiden, a werewolf, and a beast) and a mediator, attempting to deal with their afflictions. The beast begins to reveal his sordid tale. He once was a beautiful, popular freshman boy named Kyle. He had his pick of all the hot girls. He scorned or ignored those less beautiful than he, until one day he picked on the wrong overweight goth chick. She cursed him, turning him into a hairy beast, and giving him two years to fall in love and in turn be loved, otherwise he will live out the rest of his days as a hideous creature. This is the story you well know.

Kyle's father, a superficial news anchor, can't stand to look at his ruined son. He banishes him to a large brownstone (the "castle") with a maid and a blind tutor. And Kyle begins his transformation from an egocentric ass to one worthy of love. He reads classic literature, he grows roses. The challenge is to find someone who can see the beauty within. Through a series of events, he imprisons a girl in his brownstone and begins to slowly earn her trust. He realizes that while she is not beautiful, he loves her, so much that he must set her free, and pray that she comes back to him, in time to break the curse.

The plot itself is very predictable. It would be sacrilege to mess with the general elements of the story, wouldn't it? That still doesn't make the journey any less enjoyable, in fact it was darned close to a one-sitting read. This is one of those books that can take the edge off of a reading slump or a dreary war novel. It is always nice to see a narcissist change his ways.

One word of caution for the early teen reader. Kyle's lifestyle pre-beast is one that includes alcohol-swilling and manipulating hot girls to get sex. There is also some language. I sorta wish I would have known this before my 12-year-old read it, but there you go - I learned my lesson. On the bright side, the overall message is a positive one (bad behavior might just cause a witch to curse you!).

I have some initial doubts about the movie. Based on the trailer, the casting seems questionable. The overweight, goth girl is played by one of the Olsen twins (????) and the not-so-beautiful girl that saves Kyle from a life of beastliness is played by Vanessa Hudgens (????). Also, when cursed, Kyle does not get all hairy with claws and teeth. Instead, he becomes scarred and tattooed. I sense some marketing skulduggery at work here. On a positive note, the blind tutor is played by Neil Patrick Harris. We heart him.

3.5 out of 5 stars




19 comments:

Amy said...

I hadn't heard of this book until I saw it was going to be a movie. How interesting. I think I may just watch the movie with this one, despite the highly questionable casting!

farmlanebooks said...

I hadn't heard of this one either. Not sure it is for me though. I haven't had much success with books based on fairy tales recently!

Julie P. said...

Wow! I hadn't heard of the book or movie. It sounds like a very unique twist on one of our favorite stories too, but I think I'll hold off with both the book and movie until my daughter is older.

Nymeth said...

Sigh - why is it that unattractive characters always have to be played by attractive actors pretending not to be so? :\

Molly said...

I am always drawn to modern-day retelling of classic fairy tales. Not sure I will want to see the movie, but I would like to check out the book.

thanks for the awesome review~

Zibilee said...

I have read other great reviews of this book, but yours really entices me to go out and grab this one! It sounds like it's a really interesting story, and one that I would probably like to share with my teen daughter. I also find it really funny that the movie adaptation is straying so far from the book. I know they are trying to make it more teen friendly and cool, but some of those changes sound really out there. I wish that movies stayed closer to the source material sometimes!! Great review, Sandy! I am going to be on the lookout for this book for our summer reading list!!

Trisha said...

I read this on my flight to NYC (because of you) and I really enjoyed it. My review should be up in the next week. I'm very upset by the casting and the physical changes as well.

Literary Feline said...

I love the story of Beauty and the Beast. It was one of my favorites growing up and then when the Disney movie came out, I fell in love with it all over again. I may have to give this book a try. It sounds good!

I am not so sure about those casting choices for the movie, but I guess we'll have to wait and see . . .

Michele at Reader's Respite said...

I have this weird thing for modern day renditions of fairy tales....I had no idea this book existed. So sex, drinking and language be damned, I want to read this. (But I am still laughing over your 12 year old reading it....sounds like something I would let slip by me and then later say "damn.")

caite said...

I am afraid that you totally lost me when you mentioned the Olsen twins. :-)

Carrie K. said...

I totally forgot about the sexual content at the beginning - I'm sorry - I feel like I should have warned you!

I agree with you about the film casting and changes - I'm withholding judgment until I see it, which now will take longer, since the release date was changed till next year.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have always loved the Beauty and the Beast story. And I remember laser discs! LOL

heidenkind said...

Yeah, this book is just okay. I thought it was pretty shallow, but you can it in a day easily.

I actually think the movie might improve the book--at least in this one Kyle has to go to school. But I agree that Hollywood tends to beautify everything. I watched the live-action remake of Blood: The Last Vampire the other night, and the unattractive chunky heroine with glasses was played by a pretty blonde. It kind of pissed me off, really.

bermudaonion said...

My sister would probably like this, but I'm not into fairy tale re-tellings much.

Iliana said...

I like Nymeth's comment!

I don't think I'd heard of this book either but it sounds cute. I think I'll probably skip the movie but the book, I may have to give it a go.

DesLily said...

I remember the original old black and white movie, so lets not mention age! I don't know why I don't have the desire to read more books on it.

I loved the old tv show of Beauty and the Beast which of course extended the premis ..it's the only tv series I've bought on dvd and that is mainly because it never showed reruns!

Beth F said...

I generally like fairy tale retellings, but this one isn't grabbing me.

Jenners said...

This sounds kind of fun. The casting sounds like typical Hollywood. Only in Hollywood would an Olsen twin be cast as an overweight Goth girl.

diaryofaneccentric said...

Not sure this is my cup of tea, but I really enjoyed the Disney version. I think I was in 8th grade and saw it in the theater with my best friend.

--Anna