Author: Brie Spangler
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Hardcover, 305 Pages
Publication: October 11, 2016 by Knopf BFR
Source: I received a review copy from the publisher in exchange for a honest review/blog tour.
Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.
Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends.
But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?
What initially drew my attention to this book was the beautiful cover, I mean, just look at it! I was even more excited when I heard it was a new twist on Beauty and the Beast, one of my all-time favorite fairy tale. Beast being big and hairy 15-year-old Dylan, who’s beginning his sophomore year in high school and Beauty, a stunning transgender girl name Jamie whom Dylan meets in therapy.
Beast was beautiful as it was heartbreaking. It was an emotional roller-coaster; there were some great happy moments and scary and sad moments. Dylan our protagonist and narrator was known as ‘Beast’ at his school due to his size, almost 7 feet tall and his accelerated hair growth. The school is ruthless in their taunting and even his best friend JP uses the nickname freely and frequently. There is never a moment that goes by that Dylan isn’t reminded of his peculiarity. So one day Dylan thought the solution to his problem was getting injured, so he ‘accidentally’ fell off a roof, which landed him with a broken leg and an order to do group therapy. It was in therapy that he meets Jamie and thus began a relationship between the two. Except at the start of their relationship, Dylan is oblivious to Jamie being transgender and once he learned the truth things gets confusing, complicated and dangerous for them and everyone around them.
Dylan and Jamie were very realistic and relatable characters. Although I never had it as rough as they did in high school, I do know how cruel high school kids can be. All anyone ever wants to do is fit in, be normal and to be accepted but life is never easy or fair. I empathized with both Dylan and Jamie but there were times that I just wanted to shake Dylan for his remissness regarding Jamie and her feelings. Who knew smart people can be so dense? Jami e on the other hand was a breath of fresh air. She was always true to herself and was unapologetic about it. No matter how many times people tried to knock her down her or pretend that she didn’t exist, she never let them affect her…much. Yes, it was hard for Jamie but the bullies never won or had the satisfaction of seeing their words or action affect her.
Spangler’s Beast was thoughtful and well written and I enjoyed it so much more than I expected to. If you’re looking for a unique take on a beloved fairy tale, then I highly recommend reading Beast because you won’t be disappointed. It’s about overcoming physical and social norms and finding love in unexpected places…have a box of tissues ready, because you’re going to need it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Author/illustrator of children's picture books and YA novels, Brie Spangler loves to draw and write stories and drink massive amounts of caffeine, but not quite Dave Grohl "Fresh Pot!"/require hospitalization levels. Writing down the ideas in her head was scary as a kid, so she turned to making pictures instead. Brie worked as an illustrator for several years before she began to write and immediately became a frothing addict. BEAST is her debut novel