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Beast Hardcover – October 11, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—A coming-of-age tale where the main character's physical growth unfortunately outpaces his emotional development. Fifteen-year-old Dylan is incredibly self-conscious about his size (6'4" and still growing), his hairiness (he's had to shave since sixth grade), his ugly face (which he hides with his long hair and hat), and his unflattering nicknames (Beast, Sasquatch, Caveman). On the day his school bans long hair and hats, he happens to fall off his roof and break his leg. This lands him in group therapy for self-harmers, and at the one therapy session he attends, he meets love interest Jamie. Dylan isn't listening when Jamie reveals that she is transgender, and the relationship predictably suffers because of this miscommunication. Despite this, the romance between Dylan and Jamie is this book's best aspect. At first, Jamie seems to embody the manic pixie dream girl trope, but she does evolve into a fully realized character. There is some transphobia exhibited by Dylan and by tertiary characters, but this is the area where Dylan shows the most character development, while not becoming magically perfect in all of his reactions. However, Dylan's self-esteem issues are increasingly ignored as the romance blossoms, violent tendencies and self-harming behaviors are glossed over, and a major breach of trust between Dylan and his mother is treated as a mere plot point instead of having genuine emotional consequences. VERDICT An ambitious YA romance that doesn't reach its full potential but that may find fans among realistic fiction readers.—Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library
"Writing smartly in Dylan's voice, Spangler artfully represents both main characters: the boy who feels like a freak and the witty, imperfect, wise trans girl he loves. Very lightly borrowing on the classic fairy tale, she allows them to fail and succeed without resorting to paper villains or violent plot points to manipulate compassion. A believable and beautiful human story."—Kirkus Reviews starred review
"Spangler’s captivating portrayals of Dylan and Jamie offer piercing insight into the long, painful battle to shatter stereotypes in order to win dignity, love, and acceptance." —Publishers Weekly starred review
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The main problem was that I wasn't a fan of Dylan. He's so caught up in his appearance that he doesn't give much thought to anyone but himself. I also didn't like the entitled vibe I got from him, as if he was owed something - no, thank you. While I like realistic characters, flaws and all, and Dylan ticks that box, I couldn't get on board with 'terrible teenage boy' and his cringe worthy actions, even if it felt authentic.
On the other hand, I loved Jamie. She was a breath of fresh air and for me, the saving grace of the novel. Maybe I would have liked the book better had it been written from her perspective. I can't personally speak for trans representation, but I thought the author handled it well and with sensitivity.
Being a fan of Jamie, but not Dylan, the romance didn't work for me, which seem to be a reoccurring issue many readers. It wasn't swoon worthy and I felt Jamie deserved better.
It was interesting to read about body image issues from a male perspective though, as this is rarely touched on in YA.
Mixed feelings overall, but if you're after a unique, diverse contemporary with a Beauty and the Beast vibe (more so than a retelling), this may suit.
This book was an easy read, the language was very simple and the dialogue was very unrealistic. Sometimes the plot shifted at random points and didn't fully explore the emotions that these characters should have. There was too much plot and conflict going on at one, so much so that the characters couldn't explore one conflict thoroughly, thus leaving the readers confused and wanting closure.
The literary elements were thrown at random, very inconstant, and told the story in a basic way; the literary devices could have been used more eloquently, but instead showed the lack of complex and deep thought. It made the story predictable and common.
The timeliness was absolutely crazy; Dylan just met this girl and suddenly fell in love with her in the page and a half of meeting her. Apparently the time frame was over a couple of months (because he broke his leg and fell in love with Jamie by the time his leg was healed; but even then he "fell" in love with her before his leg healed). The fact that Brie Spangler tried to talk about tough subjects like the transgender community, death in a family, love, and friendships was very cool, but was poorly portrayed through this story.
The quality of this book was very poor and really painful to read. The plot and monologues of the characters felt very forced and the six individuals who read this book could not relate to it. Overall, we do not recommend this book.
So this is (yet another) retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Each one is sweet and unique- look at Alex Flynn's Beastly- I really loved her take on it. I was charmed by the premise here. A young man with severe image issues, and a transgender young woman. Even though there are dozens revisited fairy tales, I am a sucker for them. Especially when the author can add a fresh twist.
Dylan hates how he looks. He is huge, hairy and ugly. Even his best friend calls him The Beast. Ever since he was little all he ever had was his mom, and then his friend JP. The two were like family and he would do anything for the guy. After a really bad day, Dylan makes some poor choices. One thing leads to another and he winds up in a cast and going to therapy for self-harmers. At his one and only session he meets Jamie. Everyone is sharing, and if he wasn't having a pity party he might have heard her share her story. Instead all he sees is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, who doesn't seem disgusted by him. As the two grow closer, Dylan is ecstatic. He adores Jamie! He finally (maybe) has a girlfriend! And then he finds out- she is transgender. He has to decide how much this matters to him and what it all means- no small feat at fifteen. After a few huge missteps he has a lot of ground to cover. Can he win his girl over?
Alright, time to gush! I adored these characters. Dylan is a young man with very normal desires for his age. Friends, popularity, and to not disgust the opposite sex. He is also nearly seven feet tall and furry- thus all the nick names. Jamie, on the other hand, has been walking her road for a while. She seems strong and beautiful-confident in her place.. but she isn't really. She knows who and what she is, and damn society... but it's hard not to notice the overly worried mom and all the newsfeeds. The book had a lot to say about how we as a society see ourselves, and how we view and treat one another. I can't recommend it enough. Five stars, plus one for creativity.
On the adult content scale, while this was written for a YA audience, there is language, violence, and some very heavy issues. I would let my niece read this, but some are more worried about these things- that's why I do this section. I would give this book a three.