Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 11th 2016
Genres: Classic Retelling, Contemporary, YA
Source: ARC provided by Publisher
A witty, wise, and heart-wrenching novel that will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell and David Levithan. 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?
~ While the book is inspired by the classic fairytale, it’s a thoroughly modern reimagining, and the only magic here is the the magic of acceptance.
~ Dylan is easy to relate to because he’s a 15 year old boy who doesn’t fit in with our society’s standard of beauty, and people dismiss his brain because of his brawn. He’s best friend with popular JP even though it means he has to play the hulking sidekick to JP’s high school dream teen.
~ What made the first half of the book interesting is that we know Dylan’s new friend Jamie is transgender, and she assumes he knows too, but since he was mentally checked out in group therapy, he has no clue. It’s also heartwrenching, because Jamie thinks that Dylan is truly okay with being transgender and sees her for the girl she really is.
~ It’s also refreshing to have a transgender character in a YA book who’s not just there for diversity’s sake or a sidekick to the hero/heroine. Instead Jamie gets to be a complete person. Her transgenderness isn’t her whole story. And she brings up some great issues that a lot of people who aren’t cisgender have to deal with- having to constantly educate people, having to worry about how people will react, and how she just wants to pee in a public restroom without having to start a protest movement. And Jamie isn’t a Manic Pixie Dream Girl either, sometimes she’s moody, or stubborn, or eyerolly with her mom. She hasn’t always been nice, or true to herself, and she likes attention. I love that Jamie is allowed to be flawed, you know, like everyone else, instead of this magical transgender character.
~ And while this book is about Jamie, it’s mostly about Dylan and his issues with himself. He’s so young and so afraid and hates being different and he doesn’t always handle things the right way. Although he secretly loves football, he won’t play because he’s tired of people assuming he’s a dumb jock based on his looks. There were times when he got on my nerves, or disappointed me (and Jamie and his mom and even JP), but most of the time I was rooting for him.
~ It’s just Dylan and his mom (his father passed when he was little) and they have a fairly close relationship that becomes more strained after Dylan falls of the roof. His mom isn’t perfect either, but it’s clear she loves her son even when she’s doing or saying things that make me cringe.
~ And then there’s JP. I hated him through most of the book, but like all of the characters, JP isn’t always horrible, he’s got a history, he’s got some charm. I definitely like the complexity of the characters.
~ So, in the end, Beast is about learning not just to accept others, but to accept ourselves. Maybe if we can learn to be a little kinder to ourselves, it will give us the perspective to be kind to the struggles and truth in other people too.
Dylan- nicknamed “Beast” by his classmates, at 15 he’s already over 6 feet, with a big frame and lots of hair.
Jamie- the photography loving girl who befriends Dylan after they meet in group, assuming he’s cool with her being transgender.
JP- Dylan’s best friend. Think of every 1980’s James Spader teen movie character. Now picture him looking more like heartthrob Andrew McCarthy or Rob Lowe. That’s pretty much JP.
There’s a lot of moments, but I really liked when Dylan tells Jamie about his dream of being a Rhodes scholar (even though he starts planning their entire future and Jamie and I are both like Woah, slow down there!)
Stop the Clock:
Dylan is a good guy, mostly, when he’s not too worried about how other’s see him. It’s nice to read a YA book where it’s the dude struggling to fit in, and his friendship with JP, his relationship with his mom, and the beginning of his friendship with Jamie, none of those relationships are things Dylan sees clearly. He’s a little self-absorbed, like most teenagers, but there’s more to this Beast then what’s on the surface.
Beast gets a Midnight Book rating of: