Most retellings of the classic fairy tale Beauty and the Beast take place in an actual pre-nineteenth century setting or a semi-realistic imitation. Alex Flinn, however, developed her take on the tale by setting it in modern New York City.
Her main character in Beastly is Kyle Kingsbury, the most beautiful, popular, and conceited boy in Tuttle, the private high school he attends. As well as being rich, shallow, and without any compassion, Kyle is one of those teenagers who take pleasure in tormenting others. However, picking on a very strange girl named Kendra is Kyle’s biggest mistake ever. After a nasty trick at a school dance, Kendra reveals herself to be a witch and punishes Kyle for his cruelty by turning him into a real beast. All of Kyle’s father’s connections and money can’t solve the “problem” practically, so Kyle is eventually forced to listen to Kendra’s solution to break the spell. Kyle has only two years to find someone who will look beyond appearances and love him for himself, and he must love her in return. Otherwise, his metamorphosis will be permanent. But how can Kyle even hope to find anyone in the first place when he has relied on his looks all his life?
What is unusual about Beastly is the way the author defines Kyle, who becomes the “Beast.” Instead of acquainting the reader with a vague background story for Kyle’s character and focusing mostly on the story of “Beauty,” Flinn centers Beastly on the character of the Beast. She has her main character narrate his perspective of the story himself, which helps to fully explain not only how Kyle is simultaneously a beauty and a beast but also the details of Kyle’s personal transformation from beastly temperament to true beauty.
Kyle begins to change after he finally realizes how alone he is when his looks are lost. His former girlfriend and best friends at Tuttle despise him, and even his own father deserts him. Kyle is transferred out of his father’s life in Manhattan to an old house in Brooklyn, hidden away from any future humiliation he may cause his father. With his faithful servant Magda and blind tutor, Will Fratalli, Kyle learns to respect people for themselves, not just their looks. He also understands loneliness and the pain of being hated. Kyle changes his name to Adrian King in order to forget his previous identity, finding purpose in life once again by raising roses and pursuing his studies. Unforeseen circumstances bring sixteen year-old Linda Owens, a.k.a. Lindy, into Kyle’s life. Lindy is a new type of “Beauty,” a girl who is a bookworm and an intelligent student who has experienced much pain in her own life. true friendship is Kyle’s second chance and the final step in his self-discovery.
Beastly is the classic fairy tale novel with a modern twist on magic and love. One of the author’s innovative additions is humorous chat room discussions with members like other fairy tale characters and the “Beast” himself, which are presented between the six parts of Kyle’s narrative, one for each step of Kyle’s journey. The story is uplifted by Flinn’s writing style, her colorful use of teen jargon, her sense of humor, her commentaries on works of literature, and her unique translation of the romance in Beauty and the Beast into the modern love story in Beastly. The novel has mild sensuality and sexual connotations, but overall it is a sensitive drama for young adults that criticizes modern society’s obsession with physical beauty. Beastly is about respect and true love of self that can only come from being truly beautiful within.
Original review: Part 1: ‘Beastly’ is the modern ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale; Part 2: ‘Beastly’ is the modern ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale; Part 3: ‘Beastly’ is the modern ‘Beauty and the Beast’ tale, Examiner.com