Beastly by Alex Flinn
Several of my middle and high school girls told me this book was “almost as good as Twilight.” That is about as positive an endorsement as they could make seeing as Twilight has been read at least once by ninety percent of my female students. They will never pass up an opportunity to talk about it. What Beastly does do is to come close to Twilight in its ability to satisfy the adolescent female’s hopeful perspective on romance.
Alex Flinn, author of several well-received books for young adults, makes a seamless fit of the story Beauty and the Beast and a twenty-first century high school in New York City in her book Beastly. Every aspect of the original story is preserved: the bookish, pure-hearted girl; the arrogant, privileged, shallow, and handsome young man; the witch and the spell that must be broken by a kiss of true love; the father who pays for trespassing by giving his daughter to the beast; the transformation of the heart of the beast; the rescue and the kiss freely given on the brink of the wounded beast’s death. Yet each one of these elements is easily recognizable as an aspect of the lives of today’s teenagers.
Good stories are retold through the ages because they reflect the timeless and universal qualities of human nature. The fairy tale Beauty and the Beast tells us that romantic love worth having is love based on caring and not on money or looks or power. Its retelling in Beastly appeals to my female students and mostly leaves their male counterparts as uninterested as does the enormously popular Twilight. Though it does have some mature observations made by the adolescent protagonist, the action and writing style is appropriate for readers as young as middle school.