I read both of these in quick succession and now… which one is better?
Well, Robin McKinley’s Beauty is quite fun. I loved the description of the family, how they are developed characters rather than cardboard cutouts. Beauty’s sisters, Grace and Hope, have romantic struggles of their own despite their good looks and charms, but are both as generous as Beauty herself.
The character of Beauty, from whose perspective the story is told, severely dislikes the nickname as she’s quite bookish and plain, but becomes more confident as they move to the country. Towards the end of the book, Beauty discovers that she has suddenly become tall and gorgeous, something that didn’t sit entirely right with me. Something a bit more subtle rather than outright magic may have been a more positive message to girls bookish and plain everywhere.
I found the Beast in this version a bit passive; he talks about how he can’t control himself and all that, but he’s never a very threatening character, and the flowery ending was probably a bit too Disney. Actually, it was more flowery than the Disney version, even if the Beast is greying. The procession of villagers towards the no-longer-enchanted castle seemed a bit camp. But there are some beautifully written passages within the book that give it a slightly darker, more gothic/romance feel, when Beauty is lost in the woods, or when she swoons and awakens clinging to the Beast in his arms.
Beastly, by Alex Finn, set in contemporary New York, was a more personable narrative. The main character, Kyle, reads like a Gossip Girl character. Pretty, popular, rich, influential, arrogant and cruel. Finn should probably have called him Chuck…
When a witch curses him for a petty prank he plays, Kyle is forced by his very rich and famous father to live in Brooklyn with a blind man as a tutor. Beauty, or “Lindy”, is a rednut with bad teeth and a junkie father that Alex watches through his fantastical mirror.
Kyle is quite a likeable character, and this novel shows the transition from dick (who knows he’s being one) to slightly pathetic but ultimately unselfish. He’s a much more convincing character than McKinley’s Beast, although that might be because we get to hear the story from his side. Lindy doesn’t get any more beautiful, but it doesn’t seem to matter much.
The only bits that irked me were the superfluous chat room scenes. Totally unnecessary with annoying “teen talk” that is very obviously written by an adult. I have a massive dislike of very current slang and MSN style chat in books; I refuse to read Lauren Kate anymore because one of her characters used the term BTDubs. Bleurghh.
But all in all, I think it’s Beastly that won for me.