The Premise: Kyle Kingsbury is handsome, popular, and, a big superficial jerk. His father is a famous newscaster and taught Kyle that people who did things out of friendship or love are suckers, so Kyle lives only for himself. Life is good: he goes to an elite school in Manhattan where he's ultra popular and has a lock on being voted king of the ninth grade spring dance. Then Kyle decides to humiliate a strange new girl at the dance, and is rewarded with his comeuppance - cursed to be a beast unless he can love and be loved in return. He has two years to learn and to become someone worth loving or he will stay a beast forever.
My Thoughts: Kyle is incredibly unlikable in the first few pages of this book. Before his world is rocked by the curse, he really turned me off. In fact, I read a few pages of Beastly through Amazon's Look Inside program a year or so ago and I was worried I wouldn't like the book because of him. But once I got a chapter or two in, I empathized with Kyle despite my first impressions. Kyle's growth from the snobby pretty-boy with negligent parents into a man of character doesn't happen overnight. It took much of the two years he's allocated and it's not an easy road, but I believed and hoped he could make it eventually.
Kyle (who renames himself Adrian), is exiled by his father to a house in Brooklyn when it becomes clear that nothing can fix his appearance. All he has is his faithful housekeeper Magda, and after he asks for it - a blind tutor named Will. Adrian watches the world through a magic mirror. The forced isolation produced by becoming a beast gives him plenty of time for introspection, and he uses the time productively. He starts to appreciate things he thought of as unimportant before, and I enjoyed his discovery of less superficial interests, although he continues to despair of really breaking his curse. That is until circumstances allow Lindy, the "Beauty" of the story to enter the picture.
Lindy is probably the opposite of what Adrian used to be when he was Kyle - not popular, not good looking, and not rich. She lives in a poor neighborhood with an addict father. Despite being rather plain and not particularly noticeable, there's something that draws Adrian to her. Adrian's feelings for her were rather sweet - wanting her to like him, and realizing he can't buy or bargain for her affections. His loneliness and yearning at this point made their tentative friendship something to root for. While I found Lindy to be a nice person, but not particularly compelling compared to Adrian, I wholeheartedly believed the feelings Adrian had for her. And I believed this version's explanation of why her family so easily let her go to the Beast.
As a bonus, I loved that Beastly was based on the version of Beauty and the Beast in which Beauty is a reader. Reading books like Jane Eyre, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Les Misérables, Phantom of the Opera and The Picture of Dorian Grey are all part of the story, and I loved the parallels, which were not lost on Adrian/Kyle. I also enjoyed the "transformation" chat room conversations that Adrian joined. It was hilarious to see the little mermaid, the frog prince and others kvetching online.
Overall: A very pleasing modern-day Beauty and the Beast. I really liked this spin on my favorite fairy tale: told from the first person point of view of a spoiled Manhattan teen who does become a better person and has to win the girl the hard way. If you'd like to read a YA with a sweet romance, and you like the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, I recommend this one.
I'm looking forward to reading the other books in this series - A Kiss in Time, and Cloaked. And I'll probably look for the DVD of Beastly the movie whenever it comes out (it's been suspiciously delayed in it's release).
Buy: Amazon | Powell's | The Book Depository
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