Killing Me Slowly

A leopardess who learned how to dance. And read.
Beastly - Alex Flinn Here's the thing: when you do fairytale updates, you can't just cut-and-paste them word for word into a modern setting. They just don't work well that way. For one thing, fairytales have been around for a long time. They're very familiar to most people, so if you don't do something new and interesting with the premise beyond a change of locale, you're apt to bore people.

For two, fairytales are products of a different era. They're from a different culture, with different values, plus, they've always worked in a different sort of context. In fairytales, things like, say, picking a lifemate based on the size of their foot or trading your voice for a man and a vagina are just sort of par for the course. But those things don't quite work as well in real life without some adjustments.

This is where we have our problem with Beastly - it doesn't make any of those adjustments. It slavishly adheres to every element of the original story, with only minor, superficial changes to accommodate the new setting. Pretty much everything else is kept exactly the same as the original fairytale, which means we are honest-to-God subjected to a story that:

a) presents ugliness/disabilities/hardships as some sort of curse/trial/test of character that can eventually be magically overcome if you endure them with enough grace,

b) uses physical beauty as a reward for virtue,

and c) centers around the hero kidnapping the heroine for the express purpose of making her fall in love with him.


But we're getting ahead of ourselves

The framing device for this story is our Beast's contribution to a sort of group counseling chat room for "people who have transformed into other things". Yes, seriously. It's run by a "Mr. Anderson" (as in Hans Christian Anderson, get it, get it, hurhurhur), and its participants are Beast, the frog prince, the little mermaid, and the bear from "Snow White and Rose Red". In the course of a few sessions spread throughout the book, they discuss various facets of their myths (in a weirdly meta way), which gives the Beast a springboard from which to dive into his narrative.

our titular "beast" is Kyle Kingsbury, and our setting has moved from medieval France to modern-day New York City. Kyle is a superficial asshole, the typical "popular cool guy" at his exclusive NYC prep school. His father is a famous newscaster, whose influence - and lack there of - has left Kyle cartoonishly shallow, spoiled, and in desperate need of a lesson.

A witch shows up to oblige the plot, disguises herself as an ugly, overweight student, and lures Kyle in to playing a cruel practical joke on her. It's pretty much entrapment, but Kyle's an asshole, so we don't really feel bad for him. The witch - Kendra - curses Kyle to look like a '40's-era werewolf - or a white supremacist deeply into body modification, depending on who you ask - UNLESS he can convince some poor girl to fall for and kiss him. He gets two years to find love, but after that, the fur's permanent. Sucks to be him.

Kyle initially reacts to his transformation pretty much exactly as you'd expect - he freaks, tries to con his superficial girlfriend into kissing him (spoiler: it doesn't break the curse, cause, y'know, she's a superficial caricature, too), and finally goes to his father for help. Unfortunately, his father is such a one-dimensional asshole that, after weeks of having doctors fail to cure Kyle's new "condition", he shuts him away in a private brownstone in Brooklyn with only his maid (a walking stereotype), and a BLIND tutor. It's here that Kyle - and the book - spend quite a while angsting away a rather lengthy portion of the page count...

Read more at You're Killing.Us.

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