Beauty and the Beast comes to modern Manhattan in Alex Flinn's Beastly. When rich and popular Kyle Kingston chooses to embarrass a werido classmate at a school dance, he realizes that he's tangling with magic just a little too late to save himself. The weird girl is really a witch who curses Kyle to life as a beast unless he can find a girl to love him within two years. His famous (and famously handsome) newscaster father essentially banishes his newly horrifying offspring to Brooklyn and Kyle gives up on any hope of breaking the curse. Instead, he changes his name to Adrian, becomes obsessed with his greenhouse of roses, spends all his time watching the world go by from the top story window or from a magic mirror left by the witch, and lives like a recluse with only his blind tutor and the Colombian maid for company. He's set to live out his days in this pattern, reading books and hiding from the world, until one night when he catches a drugged-up thief in his greenhouse. In exchange for his life, the junkie offers his daughter, Lindy, to the beast. When Adrian looks at the girl through his magic mirror, he recognizes her as a smart scholarship student from his old school and believes she might be his last chance at breaking the spell... plus, anyone would be better off away from a father willing to trade his daughter to some kind of monster. Adrian prepares for Lindy's arrival... and unsurprisingly to everyone except Adrian, she's not exactly thrilled to be there or have anything to do with her new jailer. Don't worry, though. This is paranormal romance. Love will blossom as sure as the roses.

If you know the Beauty and the Beast story, you know the outcome here, but Beastly's appeal rests in the modern setting with updates aplenty. While banished to Brooklyn (and as a Brooklynite, I suppose I could take offense at this, but whatever, it's better here anyway), Kyle/Adrian's world expands through the internet and between chapters, the readers sees a "transcript" of chats that he participates in with other magically afflicted individuals (including a mermaid looking to become human, a frog that needs to get kissed, and so on); unsurprisingly, it reads like many teenage chat room transcripts though perhaps that's what makes it a refreshingly different addition (though they don't go on for ages, at least, unlike most teenage chats). The reader gets to see selfish Kyle become thoughtful Adrian, a kid who devours books and comes to care about those around him, focusing on their needs and ultimately yielding to Lindy's request to return to take care of her father. His transformation is somewhat unbelievably quick, but Flinn does a nice job of capturing Kyle/Adrian's feelings of isolation without wallowing in it. I did like the fact that Kyle recognized New Yorkers will pretty much ignore anything, so he can wander around a little bit without eliciting too much suspicion. I also rather appreciated that Flinn made some follow-up observations post-happy-ending-transformation where Lindy actually was somewhat uncomfortable with her new handsome boyfriend, given that it would spur her own self-esteem issues.

Flinn makes the injecting of the fairy tale into the real world look easy-- and while critics might argue that this requires some extremes of reality (an ultra-wealthy father to provide a brownstone/castle for his beastly son, a junkie father willing to trade his daughter for his own life, etc.), one might also point out that fairy tales themselves are geared towards rewarding those who do deal with extremes. Most of the deserving souls in fairy tales are poor or otherwise downtrodden... or are wealthy folk who need to appreciate what truly makes one rich (and very little is magical in the middle class). One rather uncomfortable detail is the blind tutor, whose handicap is unintentionally likened to a curse that can be lifted... it makes the tutor come off as someone who isn't whole and needs to be fixed. It's hard to make a perfect transition of all fairy tale details into the real world, I suppose. a

All in all, Beastly is a pleasing little volume whose value rests primarily in the idea of it all. It's a quick read -- and anything longer would have certainly been to its detriment -- and it's a sweet little amusement. It's slated to be made into a movie (released March 2011), but the trailer suggests significant alterations were made to the details. In the end, though, no matter how the little things change, it's a tale as old as time... (Sorry. I had to.)

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