Kyle Kingsbury is a rich kid who has grown up believing that good looks are more important than anything.
After a prom prank gone wrong, a witch casts a spell on him, turning him into a beast. He has two years to find someone to love him who he can love in return.
Set in modern day New York, Beastly is a retelling of the classic tale, about the feeling of alienation and the importance of inner beauty.
I got 'Beastly' out from my public library. The corner of the novel had teeth marks in it. This was not a design of the book, it had actually been chewed. Apparently my cat Severus is not the only one who enjoys eating books.
I was sceptical at first, but I read it quickly - quick for me at least, as my literary super powers do not involve speedy reading - and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The novel is narrated in first person by Kyle. In the beginning he isn't a particularly likable character, but there is enough insight into his upbringing and relationship with his father, that he was sympathetic enough for me not to lose interest in the book.
I liked being able to see straight into the mind of the "beast." The story is well known and has been the inspiration for many novels in the past, such as 'The Phantom of the Opera' and 'The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.' I loved how the novel embodied the feeling of being secluded and cast out from the world. Kyle looked at other people with despair of ever belonging, which is something many young people can identify with.
The story differs from the original in the sense that it coincides with the modern setting of New York. It took a while for the "beauty" of the novel to properly enter the story, but I was so absorbed in Kyle's world that it didn't bother me. Secluded from the world, Kyle's story might have been utterly uninteresting. Yet being wrapped up in books, with the internet as your main window to the to the world, is quite commonplace. The only thing I found more than a tad confusing was when Will said Wilde died in prison. Major tutor fail there.
There is something fascinating about Kyle's isolated state. Beastly may be a modern fairy tale but it isn't laden with sparkles and fairy dust. Drugs and swearing and sex are addressed, though there isn't anything explicit. Beastly is a book about love, inner beauty and acceptance. So if you're in any way worried that the book comes with a bow-chica-wow-wow backtrack, don't be.
I re-experienced Beastly for a second time - two years later - on audio. It was narrated by Chris Patton, who I knew from his voice work in anime. His narration was diverse, whilst still remaining true to the first person narrative, and not being over-dramatic. I thought Patton's reading of The Princess Bride lines were particularly spot on.
Beastly is a novel that you can really wrap yourself up in. I would suggest it to people who really like the premise of 'Beauty and the Beast.' I don't think you will be disappointed.