From the BLURB:
I am a beast.
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright-a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever-ruined-unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
‘Beastly’ is Alex Flinn’s sixth novel. I heard about this book because it is being adapted for the big screen, and I keep seeing the trailer and movie poster.
Kyle Kingsbury is the prince of Tuttle academy – an upscale New York private school. He is rich, privileged and beautiful. His father is a TV newscaster and his girlfriend is the hottest piece of ass at Tuttle. Life is good for Kyle. Life is perfect. Not so much for the classmates he bullies and humiliates, but that’s not really his concern. Until one day his teasing goes too far... he humiliates a girl called Kendra at the school dance. Sucks for Kyle that Kendra is really a witch – a powerful witch who curses him to be as hideous on the outside as he is on the inside. She turns him into a beast. A clawed, hairy, snarling beast. But, she also gives him an out. If he can find someone to love him, despite his hideousness, within two years then the curse will be broken and he’ll go back to being beautiful Kyle Kingsbury.
But until then, Kyle is ‘Adrian’ – the beast whose father hides him away in a five-storey Brooklyn apartment, shut up from the world with a blind tutor called Will and a housemaid named Magda.
I loved this book. It is quite clearly a retelling of the classic ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Flinn isn’t subtle in her usage of the old fairytale; the title aside, she makes reference to the old story and the various retellings. As Adrian hides away in his Brooklyn apartment he has nothing but time, time and books. He reads all the classics, from ‘Phantom of the Opera’ to ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ – all, in some way, various amalgamations of the old ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale. I loved the fact that Flinn was upfront in her borrowing of the classics, it meant that Adrian saw the irony of his predicament and his scoffing at the old ‘happily ever after’ adage made ‘Beastly’ into a truly modern fairytale.
Obviously the crux of ‘Beastly’ (and its original fairytale) is the deeper meaning of ‘beauty is on the inside’. This lesson is beautifully illustrated through the modern NYC setting, precisely articulated through a pretty little rich boy who thinks he’s above it all. This is ‘Gossip Girl’ meets Grimm – a fabulous way to communicate an important message.
And of course this is a fairytale, so true love plays a big part. For Kyle/Adrian, true love comes in the form of a red-headed scholarship girl with crooked teeth and a love of books called Lindy. Lindy lives on the wrong side of town, with her junkie father who one day tries to break into Adrian’s Brooklyn apartment. Adrian strikes a deal, to not press charges against her father if the man agrees to give Lindy to him, as a prisoner. So begins their strange and unconventional courtship – as Adrian spies on Lindy and comes to love her from a distance, and eventually builds the courage to reveal his hideous self to her;
I stared at her. “God! You’re beautiful, Lindy,” I whispered.
She laughed. “Oh, right. You only think I’m beautiful because...” She stopped.
“Because I’m ugly?” I finished for her.
“I wasn’t going to say that.” But she was blushing.
“Don’t worry about hurting my feelings. I know I’m ugly. How could I not?”
“But I really wasn’t. What I was going to say was you think I’m beautiful because you don’t know any other girls, any beautiful ones.”
“You’re beautiful,” I repeated, imagining how it would be to touch her, what it might be like to run my hands over the slippery cold satin, and feel her warmth beneath.
The best fairytales have a happy ending, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say that ‘Beastly’ has a ‘happily ever after’. But the journey is really lovely – Adrian and Lindy are a cute coupling, and their romance is a sweet unravelling.
I really look forward to seeing the movie adaptation of this book. For one thing, the gorgeous Alex Pettyfer plays Kyle/Adrian. But from watching the various trailers and teasers, I’m a little concerned with the apparent Hollywood glossing the adaptation has received. For one thing, Vanessa Hudgens plays Lindy – in the book Kyle initially overlooks Lindy because she’s a red-head with crooked teeth and a scholarship kid to boot. Vanessa Hudgens really doesn’t fit the profile – and that kind of defeats the entire purpose of the books’ message. A part of Adrian’s lessons learned is that Lindy is beautiful, inside and out, but it takes him a while to appreciate her beauty and see beyond her face-value. I really don’t think it will be a stretch for the ‘beastly’ Adrian to fall for the stunning Vanessa Hudgens (who has already nabbed herself Zac Efron!). The other big movie change-up is the fact that Adrian doesn’t turn into a hairy animal, but rather a tattooed, bald ‘freak’ with scars all over his face. I can kind of understand why this aspect of the book was changed – bestiality might not sit easy with movie-goers.
Still, I look forward to seeing how the movie turns out when I loved the book so much. And I will definitely be reading more of Alex Flinn’s YA books.