The Beast Within

My favorite Disney movie is probably Beauty and the Beast. Like many bookworms, there’s one major reason for this.

Image from disney.wikia.com

What girl wouldn’t love such an amazing gift?!

Anyway, when I got the opportunity to read Serena Valentino’s The Beast Within: A Tale of Beauty’s Prince on NetGalley, I went in with some fairly high expectations…especially since the book is produced by Disney.

Cover from Goodreads

Sadly, the book did not live up to those expectations.  Parts of it were very good, but, as a whole, the book felt sloppy at some points, and the ending seemed rushed. I get that we all know how the story ends, but a book like this needs a little more than “The curse was lifted and everyone was happy. The end.” (That’s not a direct quote, but that’s definitely how the ending felt to me.) The book spent so much time relating the Beast’s feelings about everything, but we didn’t really get to see how he dealt with the curse being lifted. I’m assuming there was a bit of an adjustment period, and it would have been nice to see that.

This book gives readers a glimpse into what life was like for the Beast/Prince both before and after the curse was placed on him. Even though The Beast Within relies heavily on the Disney movie for its basis, the book does throw some twists in that will both intrigue and vex readers. A few examples are:

  • Gaston was the Prince’s best friend growing up. Both were arrogant jerks, Gaston often resented the Prince’s lofty station, and the curse gradually erased their memories of each other. I actually thought this part was kind of cool. While Gaston remained a jerk–and the Prince did too, to a certain degree–it was neat to see how each man grew into the man/monster we see in the movie.
  • The story of the witch who placed the curse on the Prince/Beast was turned on its ear. Apparently, the Prince was engaged to a witch, broke the engagement, and the witch and her crazy older sisters used the curse to get revenge. And these sisters were CRAZY! They took revenge to a whole new level, and, while I appreciate how insane they were and how their actions impacted the Beast, I think this change-up actually detracted from the story I was looking for. It was a little unsettling.
  • The curse had a sort of Weeping Angel effect on the castle’s household staff. (If that reference doesn’t make sense, watch the “Blink” episode of Doctor Who.) Gradually, the staff disappeared, but the Beast would often hear voices or see movement in the corner of his eye. When he looked for the source, though, seemingly normal objects would be frozen in place. Belle, however, could interact with the staff in their new forms. Anyone familiar with the movie knows this is a major change…and not a totally welcome one.

I think The Beast Within has the potential to be a wonderful story, telling a beloved tale from perspectives we had maybe not considered before, but I do feel that there are some things that were changed unnecessarily.  I also think that the author should veer away from “talking” directly to the audience. When one throws second person point of view into a story that should be totally third person omniscient, the waters get kind of muddy.

I did enjoy the allusions to other Disney tales. At various points, references were made to Snow White, The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, and other classic stories. Readers who enjoy Once Upon a Time and other media that interweave popular tales will appreciate that aspect of this book.

I’m hoping that a few of the things that bugged me will be changed before the book’s release on July 22nd. If they have, I’ll definitely consider purchasing The Beast Within for my school library. If not…well, we’ll just have to see.

Beastly

As you may be aware, the movie adaptation of Alex Flinn’s Beastly will be released on March 4th.  Since I want to see this movie, I simply had to read the book.  Honestly, it’s a bit surprising–even to me–that I had not read Beastly before now.  Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favorite Disney movie.  I may have mentioned this before, but I really like it when the Beast gives Belle her very own, totally awesome library.  Best.  Gift.  Ever.  Anyhoo, I finally got around to reading Beastly this week, and I really enjoyed it.  It transplants this famous fairy tale into modern Manhattan and tells the story from the beast’s point of view.  It’s nice to get a glimpse of what he is thinking about his drastic transformation…

Kyle Kingsbury has it all.  He’s gorgeous, popular, and everyone wants to be around him.  Well, almost everyone.  See, Kyle is kind of a jerk, and he makes it clear to everyone that they’re only important to him if they’re beautiful (a little something he picked up from dear old dad).  He makes fun of those he thinks are inferior, and he thinks nearly everyone is inferior to him, especially the weird girl with the green hair who doesn’t seem all that impressed with him.

In actuality, the weird, green-haired girl is a witch, and she thinks it’s time that Kyle learned his lesson.  That lesson comes in the form of a most unwelcome and unexpected transformation.  The witch, better known as Kendra, takes away Kyle’s beauty and transforms him into a hideous beast…but there is a way to reverse the spell.  He has two years to find someone to fall in love with him.  The trick is that he has to truly love her to.  If this mystery girl will kiss him–and show that his appearance doesn’t matter to her–the spell will be broken.  Simple, right?

Kyle is convinced that no one could possibly love the monster he’s become.  His own father can’t even bear to look at him.  How can he expect anyone to fall for him in his current condition.  Since his condition seems hopeless, Kyle isolates himself from everyone except Will, his blind tutor, and Magda, his housekeeper.  In his isolation, Kyle transforms into a boy whose only solace is in tending to his roses, reading, and watching the world go by from his fifth floor window.

One night, though, everything changes.  It starts with a junkie breaking into Kyle’s precious greenhouse.  In exchange for Kyle’s silence, the junkie agrees to bring his daughter, Linda, to live in Kyle’s house.  Kyle knows that this is his one and only chance at finding love.  But can this girl ever love someone so hideous, especially since she considers herself to be imprisoned by him?  And can Kyle grow to love someone other than himself?  Is there any real hope of breaking the spell, or is Kyle doomed to be a beast forever?  Relive the fairy tale when you read Alex Flinn’s Beastly.

Even though I knew what was going to happen in this book, I really enjoyed the journey the author took me on.  I really enjoyed reading about how Kyle changed and the similarities between Kyle and Linda’s father issues.  They really created a sense of connection between the two main characters that moved their love story along.  I also thought the ending was great–how Kyle stopped caring that he was a beast and only thought of what was best for Linda.  Beastly is truly heartwarming and totally lived up to its source material.

I hope you’ll read Beastly before you see the movie version.  It’s been my experience (most recently with I Am Number Four) that the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.  If you’d like more information about Beastly or author Alex Flinn, visit http://www.alexflinn.com/.  Happy reading!