Friday, March 11, 2011

Beastly, by Alex Flinn

First published in 2007 by Harper Collins

A retelling of classic tale Beauty and the Beast, Alex Flinn’s Beastly places the characters in modern-day high school and lets the scenario play out among teen hierarchies, the internet and neglected-child syndrome. It is one of the better fairytale retellings I’ve read for teens, and I have read some pretty woeful ones that make me so cross over the fact someone could create such a hackneyed and uninspired story from the classics I love so much.
That being said, Beastly never really kicked into gear for me until Part 5, which comes about two thirds of the way into the book. It was pretty generic up until then. The main character was a bit of a tosspot. I wasn’t feeling the fairytale magic. But when Lindy came into Kyle/Adrian’s house and the relationship began to develop, I was turning the pages pretty fast, till the point even where I read it as I walked home from the bus. I haven’t done THAT in ages.
I think part of the appeal is that I knew how the story would play out, but rather than reducing my enjoyment of the book it made me more interested to see how the author would go about it – how would she twist it, make it her own, how high would she make the stakes. You know it is going to end but you want to see the Beast get his happily ever after. So that actually worked in Beastly’s favour.
Some parts I didn’t like – number one, the ‘IM chats’ between the parts. I don’t know if this was an attempt to make it more relevent to a modern teen audience, or just to play around with the novelty of other well-known fairytale characters using the internet. I didn’t find it clever, and it didn’t add anything to the plot/story. Pointless, really.
Adrian/Kyle/the Beast is attracted to Lindy – I get this. Flinn did the whole ‘coming round to trusting him after initially hating his guts’ pretty decently. But I still didn’t really get what attracted him so much to her – apart from the fact that she was really the only girl he had been in contact with for a long time. The whole ‘love story’ felt more just like what would inevitably happen when two people get pushed together; it didn’t go really that deeply into the psychology of it, more just touched the surface. Something didn’t quite click. Although there were a few cute moments between them.
The dialogue was also a bit eugh. Didn’t ring true. Flinn relied quite a lot on clichĂ©, and then kind of tried to worm her way out of it by having Adrian/Kyle think something like ‘Ugh, I can’t believe I just did/said that, what am I thinking?’ Sorry, but you can’t get out of it that easily. It just made me completely detached from the text.
Still, I enjoyed Beastly well enough. And I’m quite keen to see the movie.

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