Beastly by Alex Flinn
In this YA retelling of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, a spoiled rich kid in New York plays a prank on a fat goth girl and is turned into a beast to teach him a lesson. There are some modern touches, like a recurring internet chat support group that includes the beast, the little mermaid, the frog prince, and a bear, moderated by a guy named Chris Anderson.
The story has all of the problems that the fairy tale does, especially Stockholm Syndrome. I was a little disappointed Flinn didn’t do more to make the story more palatable by changing some of those details. The beast still keeps the beauty, Lindy, prisoner, at least at first. One change is that Lindy’s father is an addict who offers his daughter to the beast on his own. This means that Lindy doesn’t really have much of a home to miss, so presumably the beast wouldn’t need to use much force to keep her at his place, if any. I was able to imagine a way that the beast could have presented his home to her as a refuge, an escape from her father’s chaotic life, and she would probably have become an increasingly regular visitor. It may not have been necessary to restrict her freedom much, if at all. Maybe Flinn saw the ‘prisoner’ stuff as vital to the fairy tale she was adapting, or maybe she thought the character hadn’t yet grown enough to let Lindy go. Either way, it might have been interesting to read a version of this fairy tale that at least attempted to soften the more objectionable aspects of the story, but this one didn’t.
The story is told from Kyle/Adrian’s point of view (the beast), so that means that we hear all his longing, angsty thoughts about how much he wants to touch Lindy, etc. It actually comes off as pretty creepy in my opinion, especially the parts about peeping on her through his mirror. I’m kind of disturbed that this stalker behavior is presented to teen girls as loving and romantic. Adrian falls in love with Lindy pretty quickly, perhaps more from loneliness than any other reason, though we don’t seem to learn much about who she is. She’s sweet and appreciates the beauty of roses and that’s about it. Adrian’s character changes fast once he meets her too. He even comments at one point that he feels weird to be talking in flowery, uncharacteristic language that he’s picked up from Lindy’s books. That seemed like a weird moment to me. If it feels weird to say those kinds of things, why is he saying them? I’d much rather a YA romance hero speak in honest, plain language instead of unnatural baroque proclamations. It’s a kind of interesting version of a fairy tale. Fans of retellings might like it. But it’s mostly standard YA fare.