Beastly Review by Sue Penkivech

Beastly Review
by Sue Penkivech

Director:  Daniel Barnz
Release date:  March 4, 2011
Rating:  PG-13
Running time:  86 minutes

 Beastly

When KV Taylor first approached me to review  Beastly, I was at first reluctant.  I’d loved the book when I read it last year, and was concerned that the movie version, starring Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens (who I’d hated throughout my daughters’ million viewings of High School Musical), would be disappointing at best.

I was both amazed and excited to discover just how wrong I’d been.

The movie begins with Kyle Kingson (played by Alex Pettyfer) campaigning for the presidency of a committee about which he admittedly cares nothing, but thinks will look good on his college applications.  At this point, I was prepared to write off the movie – Kyle’s speech about how it’s more important to look good than to have substance was off-putting and more than a little heavy handed.  But I persevered, and was glad that I did.

Enter Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a pale, fae-like high schooler, who first defaces Kyle’s campaign  posters and then disputes his points, observing that Lindy (Vanessa Hudgeons) would’ve been a far superior president but instead ran for Treasurer because she didn’t believe she stood a chance in the popularity contest.  Why?  Granted, Lindy’s a scholarship student, but she meets Kyle’s superficial criteria – she’s certainly beautiful.   In any case, Lindy denies either knowing Kendra or any interest in the presidency.  Case closed, and Kyle goes home to be ignored by his image-obsessed anchorman father.

Unfortunately, Kyle decides to get even with Kendra, apologizing for his attitude and inviting her to a formal dance.  At first, it’s unclear as to why.  At the dance, Kyle’s rebuked by his girlfriend for having bought the wrong type of corsage, offers it instead to Lindy when he congratulates her on winning the Treasurer position, and has his picture taken with Lindy for the school paper.  But Kyle’s motivations become clear when Kendra arrives and he publically humiliates her – and she curses him to find out just what it means to be ugly.  By the time Kyle returns home, he’s learned; he looks like a bald, veiny, tattooed, punk rock version of his formerly clean-cut self, and Kendra’s voice explains that he will look like that forever, unless he can find someone who will say she loves him before a year is out.

(Personally, at that point I had to wonder why he just didn’t add a few piercings, find some girl at a bar, tell her that he was the lead singer in a band, and promise to put her in his next video.  It seemed as if it would’ve saved everyone a lot of trouble.  But I’m a cynic at times.)

The next parts of the movie closely follow the Beauty and the Beast story, with modern day modifications.  Kyle’s father moves him into another house, to be cared for by their housekeeper Zola (LisaGay Hamilton) until they can figure out what to do.  He hires him a tutor as well, a blind man named Will (Neil Patrick Harris), who isn’t afraid to tell Kyle exactly what he thinks of him and his attitude.

Kyle encounters Lindy again when he drug-addict father falls afoul of drug dealer and shoots one – and makes him a deal.  He’ll keep quiet about the shooting, and take Lindy and keep her safe.  Lindy’s fathert father agrees, and Lindy very reluctantly moves into the house of her father’s “old friend” for her own protection.

And, of course, Kyle (who Lindy now knows as Hunter) learns to care.  He worries about Zola’s family, whom she hasn’t seen in years, and the loss of Will’s sight.  And about Lindy, who gradually warms towards him, never realizing he’s the same guy she’d known at school (who she admits to him that she was interested in, before he suddenly “disappeared”).

All seems well, until Lindy’s father overdoses.  Kyle, while realizing that the year is nearly over, insists that she go to him – and that she go to Manchu Picchu, a trip she’d been saving for and looking forward to for years.  He gives her a long love letter as a parting gift, then regrets it when, before reading it, she tells him that she considers him a good friend.  Heartbroken, he ignores her calls until Will and Zola prompt him to go and see her off at the airport.  Where, in true fairy tale form, she tells him she loves him.  And leaves.

But the curse is broken.  As a bonus from Kendra, Zola’s children get their green cards and Will’s sight is restored.  In a nice twist, when Lindy returns, Kyle goes to meet her – but she blows him off, because she’s looking for Hunter.  Only when she calls Hunter and Kyle’s phone rings does she realize the truth.  Scenes shown during the credits depict their life together after high school – where they’re very obviously living happily ever after.

There are several notable differences between the movie and the book.  The first is the most obvious – while Kyle’s appearance in the movie is certainly odd, he’s definitely no “beast” – no fur or claws, just a lot of veins, scars, and tattoos.   Zola, in the book, was actually Kendra in disguise, there to watch over Kyle in the hopes that he’d learn his lesson.  By comparison, I rather liked that Zola was a character in her own right, who just legitimately cared about Kyle despite his initially horrible attitude toward her.  And finally, the end of the movie shows Kendra at Kyle’s father’s station, having just been hired as his new intern and suggesting that he was her next target.  It would have been interesting to see in the ending credits just what had happened there.

In any case, the movie was spectacular, with a great soundtrack that was exactly what you wouldn’t expect in a fantasy film, but which fit it perfectly nonetheless.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!


Sue Penkivech is a substitute paraeducator, a former school librarian, and an aspiring writer.  Her work has been published in Spec the Halls: 2011 EditionBarren WorldsFantastic Pulp Magazine, and the recently released Eighth Day Genesis: A Worldbuilding Codex.  She’s prone to rambling on about what she’s reading to anyone who’ll listen – which might be why she has so much time to read!  Visit her on the web at suepenkivech.wordpress.com!

The Fae in American YA

Today we have an exploration of the fae in YA by author and book fair maven Sue Penkivech. Which ones are your favorites?


The Fae in American YA

by Sue Penkivech

Warning:  The Fae are among us.

No, literally.  You’ll find them everywhere – on peering out from every shelf in the Young Adult section of your local bookstore, nestled in between the wizards and vampires on the library’s “Recommended Reading for Teens” list, and precariously perched on the edge of your end table if you’re so fortunate as to have a twelve year old daughter who likes to read.

Well, perhaps that last one only applies to me.  But seeing as she’s willing to share, I can’t really complain.  It saves me from having to explain to the YA librarian why I’m raiding her section of the library.  Again.

My infatuation with YA faery stories dates back to before there was a “YA” genre, when I stumbled upon Thursday by Catherine Storr (1972).  For the first time in my experience, fairies were taken out of “fairy tales” and into the modern world, with a teenaged protagonist named Bee whose friend Thursday has gone missing.  The police question her, but don’t expect foul play; Thursday’s family life is unstable, and they assume his disappearance is intentional.  Bee doesn’t  believe it and launches a search of her own – but when she finally finds Thursday, he’s changed – distant, dismissive, and outright cruel and uncaring. While the adults speculate about drug use and gang membership, Bee recognizes the truth: her musically talented friend has been taken by fairies, a changeling’s been left in his place, and it’s up to her to save him.  If she’s willing to risk losing herself.

Thursday

If you can find ­a dog-eared copy of Thursday, I heartily recommend it.  But the theme of changelings is alive and well in more contemporary YA novels as well.

Changelings

Poison by Chris Wooding (2003) is a perfect example of the traditional changeling story; when Poison’s younger sister Azalea is taken from her crib, Poison refuses to accept the changeling left behind as her sister.  Instead, she embarks on a quest that not only takes her into the realms of phaerie, but into the middle of a battle for supremacy between the various phaerie factions.  Ultimately, she faces a choice:  save her sister, or save the world.  Unfortunately for Poison, she’s forgotten one key item – bargains made with the phaerie folk are rarely what they seem.

Poison

Then there’s Lament (2008), the first book in Maggie Stiefvater’s “Gathering of Faerie” series.   Luke Dillon was taken by the Faerie Queen over a thousand years ago.  With his soul held hostage, he’s since served as her unwilling hound and assassin.  But the Queen makes a mistake when she sends him to seek out a harpist named Deirdre, a cloverhand who has the ability to draw the faeries to her presence.  And Luke Dillon, whose soul will be condemned to hell should he disobey the Queen’s order to kill the girl, instead falls in love with her.   While I personally preferred the second book in the series,  Ballad (2009), Lament puts a nice twist on the faerie prisoner story, as Luke’s spent his entire existence in the real world without ever being a part of it.  Until now.

Lament

On the other hand, Sonny Flannery, one of the main characters of Wondrous Strange (Lesley Livingston, 2009) has spent nearly his whole life in Faerie as the “adopted” son of Auberon, King of the Unseelie Court.  At his father’s command, he’s now returned to Earth as part of the Janus Guard, a group of changelings who ensure that the gate between Faerie and Earth remains inviolate.  Unfortunately for him, it seems that Queen Mabh has plans for Samhain, plans which include Kelley Winslow, a budding Shakespearean actress who suddenly finds herself the target of creatures whose existence she’d never even suspected.  With piskies and kelpies, the roan horse and the wild hunt, Titania and Puck, the books is practically a Who’s Who of faerie mythology – all couched in an original, contemporary storyline that’s continued in two sequels, Darklight and Tempestuous.

Wondrous Strange

ENCHANTMENTS

Not all stories of the fae involve changelings, of course.  The magic of the fae is versatile and often put to nefarious purposes.    In Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore (2009), it’s a fairy prince who’s ensorcelled.  When the magician responsible hires Nimira to dance for a piano-playing clockwork automaton, little does he suspect that not only will the clockwork man find a way to communicate with her through his music, but that Nimira will seek out a way to break the spell.  Or…partially break it, at least.

Magic Under Glass

The Changeling Sea, by Patricia McKillip (1988, reprinted 2003) tells the story of Peri, a young girl who’s lost her father to the sea and her mother to her dreams of a kingdom beneath it.   In frustration, she casts a hex upon the sea, demanding that “all your spellbindings will unravel, and your magic is confused, and so that you will never again take anything or anyone who belongs to us, and you let go of whatever you have-“  Much to her surprise, her simple hex has results – ones that not only prove her mother was right to believe in a kingdom under the sea, but that unravel a decades-old deception involving the king, a pair of princes, and a chained sea monster that isn’t what it appears to be.

The Changeling Sea

Old cover, but I like it better than the new one.  Blame the fae for the substitution.

In Beastly (Alex Flinn, 2007), Kyle Kingsbury has it all – money, good looks, and a famous father who can get him out of any situation he might get himself into.  Everything, that is, except the ability to care about anyone other than himself.  All of that changes when he attempts to humiliate the wrong person at a high school dance, and finds out the hard way just what being “beastly” really means.  Technically speaking, Beastly doesn’t involve the fae – but as a modern day retelling of Beauty and the Beast, it falls under the same genre.

Beastly

RETELLINGS

In fact, fairy tale retellings are nearly as plentiful as original works.  Some are simply reconstructed versions of the originals.  Ella Enchanted (Cinderella), Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand (various), Curse Dark as Gold (Rumpelstiltskin), and any of the books in the “Once Upon a Time” series for young adults are some notable examples of fairy tales that are perhaps differently slanted, but which maintain most if not all of their original setting and plot.  Others, like Beastly, turn the fairy tales on their heads and transpose the stories into a more contemporary locale.  A few examples include A Kiss in Time (Sleeping Beauty), Cloaked (The Elves and the Shoemaker/The Frog Prince/others), and Silverweed (Little Red Riding Hood).

Black Pearls

So, as you can see, the fae are alive and well in contemporary America – or at least, in contemporary American young adult literature.  Stay alert, and you’ll find these and plenty of others lurking in your teen’s bookshelf.


Sue Penkivech is a bookfair merchandiser, a former school librarian, and an aspiring writer.  Her work has been published in Barren Worlds, “Fantastic Pulp Magazine”, and her short story, “Zombie Elves”, received first place in the 2009 Spec The Halls Contest.  She’s prone to rambling about what she’s reading to anyone who’ll listen – which might be why she has so much time to read!  Visit her on the web at suepenkivech.wordpress.com!