Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Positively BEASTLY... Review and miscellaneous chitchat about making the old new again

If you read this thing with any sort of regularity, you should know that I have a very open love affair (ahem, obsession) with Beauty & the Beast. (Check out my YA character study of Belle and the YA jacket copy I concocted for more details.)

Therefore (it's a "therefore" kind of day), it should come as no surprise that I own Beastly by Alex Flinn. Beastly came out in 2007 from HarperCollins. It's a modern-day YA take on Beauty & the Beast, from the Beast's point of view.

I sat down to read the first five pages of Beastly, and I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. It hooked me, sucked me in, and even though I KNEW what was going to happen, I couldn't wait to see HOW it happened.

I think that's the appeal of these retellings -- we're not reading them for plot twists or whatnot; we're reading to see how the story goes from "Once Upon a Time" to "The End."

I'm definitely a fan of Beastly. I've read Beauty and Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley, and I enjoyed both, but this was the first foray into the Beast's POV that I loved. Flinn used a mix of modern settings/language and ancient concepts (beauty, kindness, etc) to create Kyle Kingson's world. Who is Kyle? The gorgeous, snobby, elitist, cruel rich kid everyone loves to hate. Seriously, seriously hate-able guy.

So how did Flinn modernize B&tB? Beyond the modern-day New York City setting, Flinn put Kyle in an exclusive prep school and made him the son of an emotionally-absent nightly news anchor. His mother abandoned him, too -- which gives him just enough of a backstory to elicit sympathy from the reader.

With the help of the requisite witch, magic mirror, rose, and curse, Kyle transforms into a beast (fangs, claws, fur, etc.) -- his outward appearance finally matching his personality. His loving father banishes him to a 5-story Brooklyn brownstone to stay out of the public eye. His only company -- a longtime maid and a blind tutor -- of course become his only friends. He joins a "transformation" chat room with various other fairy tale characters to discuss his life (some reviewers liked this; I thought it was fun in concept but could've done without).

Side note about names: Kyle means "handsome," and the love interest, Linda, means "beautiful." I appreciated the effort Flinn put in to making layered meanings. When Kyle changed his name to Adrian ("darkness"), it was also an outward sign of his inward transformation to a much more complex character.

Like in the traditional story, Linda entered Adrian's (formerly Kyle's) beastly life because of her father. Except that her father's a drug addict, who gets caught breaking into Adrian's greenhouse and trades his youngest daughter for no police involvement and the return of his precious drugs. Definitely not the stuff of fairy tales! (Actually, with how disturbing original fairy tales are, it's exactly the stuff of fairy tales -- just not the Disney kind.)

From that point on, it's wonderful to watch their relationship evolve, along with Adrian's character transformation. I finished Beastly feeling entirely satisfied with Flinn's take on the story. And you can imagine my excitement when I learned that Beastly's being made into a movie (coming out July 2010). (It stars Vanessa Hudgens as Linda and Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra (the witch), but I'm keeping an open mind. Plus, Kyle (pre-curse) is pretty hot. Helloooo, Alex Pettyfer!)

So now I'm talking about a movie based on a book based on a fairy tale.

The first thing I thought of when I learned about the movie: A furry beast will look ridiculous. This will be a giggle-fest. THEN I saw the movie version of Kyle's beastly transformation:

Whoa. Freakin' awesome, right? That's what I thought.

So I already love that movie-to-book change. Also, the witch (Kendra) is apparently Kyle's jilted ex-girlfriend, not a random unattractive girl in class that Kyle played a nasty trick on. (The M-K Olsen choice also makes a LOT more sense now that she's some pissed-off ex instead of some ugly chick like in the book.) From those two adaptations alone, I'm feeling very positive about the movie's potential.

Anyway, Beastly is a worthy book choice. Buy it ... then come to the movies with me next summer!
What do you think of fairy tale adaptations? Or book-to-movie adaptations in general?


  1. That origin of fairy tales link was off the hook, I knew the originals were all creepier and darker but OMG with Sleeping Beauty being raped and a mom of two before she wakes up. And the girl without hands...I hadn't heard of that one before. Yeesh!

  2. I liked Beastly! I read it a couple of weeks ago then discovered they were making it into a movie, so I ran along to youtube and watched the behind-the-scenes clip. Whew, yes, Alex Pettyfer... *nodding head in agreement* heh, I likey!

    I hadn't known about the change with Kendra for the movie, but that does make a lot more sense with the casting now. I'm looking forward to seeing it on the big screen, I'm totally coming to the movies with you!

  3. I CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS MOVIE! Alex P is gorgeous! But I'm not sure if I like Vanessa Hudgens...

  4. Brodie, if you're in the Philadelphia area, we'd love to have you!
    Reggie - I'm trying not to hold HSM against Vanessa...

  5. Shawna Lewis

    I had no idea this had been out so long and wioth so many different covers wow!!
    Thanks for the review it does look like a good book I saw it at the bookstore the other day and red the back too and thought the same thing so thanks for reminding me that I do need to read it!!!


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