If you're a regular reader (although what counts as regular at the moment? I seem to be posting about twice a month!), you'll know about my battle to read more YA. Regular readers will also be familiar with my slight obsession with fairytale retellings, and I've been trying to get both book and film of Beastly reviewed for about three weeks now, so here it is!
I had very different reactions to the book and the film, so I'll go with the good first. Alex Flinn, the author of Beastly, has also written other fairytale adaptations, and after reading this I'm quite interested to read them. I have to admit to approaching the book with trepidation, purely because it had the film tie-in cover, and I was (quite rightly, it turned out), worried the film would be crap. Anyway, the book, despite its cover, turned out to be brilliant :-)
Basic synopsis (which is borrowed from Goodreads because my internet time and concentration are both severely limited and I was never good at writing synopsis anyway!):
I am a beast.
A beast. Not quite wolf or bear, gorilla or dog but a horrible new creature who walks upright--a creature with fangs and claws and hair springing from every pore. I am a monster.
You think I'm talking fairy tales? No way. The place is New York City. The time is now. It's no deformity, no disease. And I'll stay this way forever--ruined--unless I can break the spell.
Yes, the spell, the one the witch in my English class cast on me. Why did she turn me into a beast who hides by day and prowls by night? I'll tell you. I'll tell you how I used to be Kyle Kingsbury, the guy you wished you were, with money, perfect looks, and the perfect life. And then, I'll tell you how I became perfectly . . . beastly.
Did I mention that I loved the book? Disney's Beauty and the Beast is pretty much my favourite film ever. It's the first film I ever saw in the cinema (I was four and had to sit on a pile of cushions in order to see the screen. It's a very strong memory), and I just... I don't know how to describe it. I think we should probably just sing about it instead (all together now 'Nooooo onnnnnnne's smart like Gaston'. Anyway, despite knowing the story pretty much backwards (that would be much less exciting), I found reading Beastly that the characters felt very fresh and I liked them for themselves rather than for the archetypes that they represented. I loved how sweet Kyle became by the end (sorry about the spoilers, but if you're not familiar with Beauty and the Beast by now, what the hell have you been doing with your life?!) - it wasn't just that he learned to love other people, but he became a totally different person while doing so and it was brilliant. The story also lends itself really well to having a teenage protagonist. The issues raised in it - beauty, popularity, love and so on - worked really well from a teen perspective and although I don't personally know anyone who has been turned into a beast (that I'm aware of, anyway!), I am far too familiar with people who think they own the world just because they're good looking.
The love story was also really sweet and natural. 'Beauty' is Linda Adams, or Lindy, who lives with her drug addict father whom she takes care of, often getting herself into fairly dangerous situations. She comes to live with Kyle when he catches her father breaking into the greenhouse where he grows his roses (so sweet!), and he offers her his daughter in return for Kyle letting him go. The thing that I loved is that Kyle accepts the offer because he wants to save her from ending up in a worse place. At least he knows that this way she'll be safe. I never really got the whole 'I'm an asshole' thing from him that I do from the Beast in most other versions I've ever read or watched. Yeah he was a bit of an idiot in the beginning, but you could totally see how it stemmed from the fact that his dad basically doesn't care about him at all and was really more of a defensive strategy than anything else.
In the film, none of this came across. Alex Pettyfer was kind of an idiot, and don't even get me started on Vanessa Hudgens. She was so far from how I imagined Lindy being it was just untrue. Also, that thing where they change really small things for no reason in an adaptation REALLY bugs me and they did it a lot in Beastly. About two seconds in they called Kyle 'Kyle Kingston', and pretty much from then on I was out. Even the appearance of Neil Patrick Harris as Kyle's blind tutor Will couldn't save it. I missed the magic mirror, which is included in the book in a fairly similar way to the Disney story but totally erased from the film, meaning that they had to change a few plot points around fairly majorly. The characters never really developed as much as they did in the book and they entirely removed the epic end scene that's in the book. Also, and most importantly, in the book Kyle is actually transformed into a beast, the same as in the various other versions, whereas in the film for some reason they'd just given him a bunch of tattoos, which while they weren't very pretty, didn't have the same effect at all. After all there are people in the world who choose to have tattoos and piercings all over their face. As far as I'm aware there's nobody who would volunteer to be a big hairy animal. I didn't hate the film so much as was just mildly irritated by it. It just seemed like every change they made was really unnecessary and I think the book as it was would have made a pretty good film, even with Vanessa Hudgens in it. Can you tell I don't like her?
So, to summarise, if you're going to do one, read the book. I wouldn't bother with the film unless you really have nothing better to do for a couple of hours. :-)