It’s the tale as old as time reimagined as a queer middle school lover story. If you like Beauty and the Beast then, be our guest, because this book is great for you! Okay, I’m done with the puns. I promise. Now on to the review.
I am a sucker for reimaginings of classic fairytales. So that’s really all it took for me to pick up Beast by Brie Spangler when I saw it in the $1 bin at my local book shop. (Rogue Princess is another Disney fairytale-esque book I loved.)
So what’s it about?
Beast by Brie Spangler Synopsis
Beast tells the story of an oversized, hairy teenage boy named Dylan that is the target of constant bullying due to his looks. His large, wooly frame and his unattractive face have earned him the nickname of Beast. He ends up landing in group therapy for troubled teens to deal with all the resulting problems. It’s there that he meets his Beauty: a girl who has just as many (if not more) issues as he does.
It’s a coming-of-age story that delves into all the commonly explored topics – puberty, bullying, self-worth, discovering your sexuality – but with the added layer of the queer perspective.
You see, unbeknownst to “Beast,” Beauty is a trans girl. Everyone else seems to recognize this from the beginning but it goes over his head for a long while. This is where the main conflict of the story arises.
It’s an interesting concept to say the least. The characters are well thought out and the premise is solid. And Spangler makes sure not to give Dylan any defining characteristics beyond big, hairy, and unattractive. I’m sure they did so to make sure they didn’t accidentally describe someone in real life. If that’s true, I appreciate that attention to detail.
Beast by Brie Spangler review
Beast was promising but just tried too hard.
The story was interesting enough to keep me reading, but not interesting enough for me to emotionally invest in the characters. I finished the book because I wanted to see what happened in the end, not because I cared. Particularly what kept me invested was the mystery of Dylan’s broken leg and whether he really broke it on purpose or not.
The pen goes back to work and more notes are made.Beast by Brie Spangler, Chapter 1
“Would you say your new haircut was a contributing factor to your broken leg?” he asks with technical precision.
“Why the pause?”
“How did you know I got a new haircut?”
He smiles to himself. “Summer’s over, brand-new back-to-school haircut. Looks like you wore a hat too.”
“Oh. Well, ah…” I try to laugh. “See, they made this new dress code at school and now we can’t have long hair and we can’t wear hats. They banned hats.”
“When did they ban hats?”
“Today.” Now the pen scribbles furiously. “But, I mean, its’ a coincidence.”
“And today you fell off the roof and broke your leg at” – he flips the pages – “around three-thirty in the afternoon.”
“Oh. I’m fine.”
“You have two spiral fracture and titanium rods and pins holding your leg together. That’s not exactly fine,” he says. “Do you have a history of self-harm?”
“What? No! I don’t ‘self-harm.’ Are you serious?”
“Dylan, you fell off the roof the day they banned hats.”: He raises an eyebrow…
As far as the storytelling, it’s a well written novel and a classic coming-of-age, love story setup. You know, exposition, a little dramatic irony, and a small shocker toward the end of the falling action. It’s an entertaining novel you can get through in a day or two but nothing revolutionary.
Beast by Brie Spangler
Overall, I’d give the book a 3 out of 5 unicorns.
I’d recommend it solely for the representation and if you like fairytale reimagining’s but beyond that it’s just okay.
And that’s fine. Not every book is meant to break the sound barrier, some just are passenger planes allowing your imagination to safely travel to a destination of escapism.