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Literature / Beastly

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And white is for true love...

Beastly is a 2007 young adult novel written by Alex Flinn. It is a modern retelling of Beauty and the Beast from the perspective of the beast, set in New York City.

Kyle Kingsbury is as rich, handsome and popular as he is selfish, shallow and cruel. After he plays a mean practical joke on an outcast girl in his class, who turns out to be a witch named Kendra in disguise, she casts a spell on him, transforming him into a beast. However, because Kyle gave an unwanted rose corsage to a girl working a ticket booth — a small act of kindness he performed shortly before his transformation — Kendra allows him exactly two years to break the spell before he is doomed to remain a beast forever. To do this, Kyle must fall in love with a girl and she must love him in return, proving the love with a kiss.

While Kendra later offers Kyle further aid by giving him a Magic Mirror that shows him whomever he wishes to see, he finds great opposition in his shallow, image-obsessed news reporter father, who refuses to associate with his beast form. However, a chance encounter with a robber's daughter named Linda could be just what he needs to break his curse.

A film adaptation of the book was released on March 18th, 2011, starring Alex Pettyfer as Kyle, Vanessa Hudgens as Lindy (the film's equivalent of Linda), and Mary-Kate Olsen as Kendra. In the adaptation, instead of Kyle being turned into an inhuman beast, he turns into a "human monster" — a huge, ugly punk covered in tattoos, piercings, and scars.

This book provides examples of:

  • Animorphism: The curse turns Kyle into an animal-like creature.
    "I was an animal—not quite wolf or bear or gorilla or dog, but some horrible species that walked upright, that was almost human, yet not. Fangs grew from my mouth, my fingers were clawed, and hair grew from every pore."
  • Author Appeal: Beastly is one of several Alex Flinn books that take place in New York City.
  • Beast and Beauty: Kyle being the beast, Linda being the beauty.
  • The Beautiful Elite: Kyle used to belong to them before the curse; he even uses the actual phrase "the Beautiful People".
  • Blind and the Beast: Kyle's tutor Will is blind and hence isn't frightened by him even after Kyle tells him about his curse. It's worth noting, though, that Kyle only asked his father for a "tutor" and isn't happy with the implications behind his father sending him a blind one.
  • Bookworm: Linda.
  • Breakout Character: Kendra has been well-received by fans. She even gets her own origin story in Bewitching and is also a prominent character in Mirrored and Beheld.
  • Curse: The central theme of the story, in keep with its source material.
  • Curse Escape Clause: Kyle's spell can only be broken if he falls in love with a girl and gets her to return the love within two years of his transformation, or else he'll be stuck as a beast forever.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Kendra is extremely terrible at casting curses. In fact, she's doing servant work at the beginning of the book because the other witches rightly think she's not discreet enough and will expose them all because people will see obvious magic, especially because it's modern times, meaning there is a higher danger to being exposed with how social media works. Then she casts her curse on Kyle, which to anyone who sees him has no logical explanation at all and is even worse since he's the son of a high profile newscaster. The other witches are so furious at Kendra's actions that she in turn is forced to help Kyle break his curse given the extremely high expectations of the Curse Escape Clause, as well as serve as his housekeeper Magda.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Kendra's curse on Kyle; in fact it's so extreme that the other witches curse Kendra in turn to pose as Kyle's housekeeper and mother-figure Magda while he's banished to an abandoned mansion. Yes, he shouldn't have humiliated her at the dance. Yes, his prank was extremely cruel. But to turn someone, especially a child in modern New York City, into a complete literal monster, that means they'd be isolated and hunted down constantly for years on end. It made him a better person, but not because of the curse itself but rather because of some really dumb luck that Linda's father breaks into Kyle/Adrian's greenhouse while high. Kyle/Adrian lampshades it as he starts to lose hope of breaking his curse, and he points out to Kendra in turn that it's cruel to expect anyone to fall in love with a beast, because it would ruin their life.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Between Kyle getting past his pride and Linda learning to look past his frightful appearance, misunderstandings, despair and separation, and a near-miss with death, Kyle and Linda most certainly earn their happy ending.
  • Flower Motifs: The meanings of different roses are brought up at various points in the book, and Kyle plants a specific kind of miniature called "Little Linda" in honor of Linda's arrival.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Kyle tries this at a dance. It ends badly when the girl he's dancing with tries to pull off his "mask".
  • Freudian Excuse Denial: On the night Kendra cursed him, Kyle finds his previous transgressions listed by her. To this, he wonders to himself why he wasn't kinder when he had the chance. For a moment, he thinks maybe it has to do with his mother's leaving, or his father neglecting him. But he soberly comes to the conclusion that he's cruel to others for this petty reason alone: he can.
  • Heroic BSoD: Adrian, after he lets Linda go off to help her father.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Why Adrian lets Linda leave in the first place. (Her drug-addicted father is on the verge of death without her to look after him, and — though he's always been neglectful of her — she can't bear the thought of him dying.)
  • Jerkass: Kyle, at first.
  • Junkie Parent: Lindy Taylor has to deal with her father who is addicted to heroin and constantly getting them both in trouble for the money he owes his dealers.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Kyle's father is just as narcissistic as his son, with less excuse. In fact, he's arguably the cause of Kyle's cruelty. But nothing happens to him. Kendra should have gone after the father once she'd straightened out the son.
    • Given how he was in the public eye so much, she probably couldn't have gone after him. She already was banished from ever going home for cursing his son Kyle.
    • Actually, the closest we come to retribution is towards the end when the now-human Kyle tells his dad (who now wants to spend more "quality time") that they should get together. Essentially, Kyle is going to bail out on his dad.
    • At least in the film, the last scene implies that she's coming for him…
    • In the film, Kendra is the only witch in the setting, meaning that there are no other witches to punish her for her actions and curse her into helping Kyle.
  • Karmic Transformation: Kyle/Adrian's curse is supposed to be this, as Kendra intended. It gets deconstructed over the book, however; even if Kyle weren't banished to a mansion, and abandoned by his father, he has virtually no chance of living a normal life. Anyone who sees him will see a raging beast, and react with fear or disgust. Kyle/Adrian himself points it's unfair to make the Curse Escape Clause a burden on someone else loving him with all the fur and claws.
  • King Incognito:
    • Magda, Kyle's seemingly Hispanic caretaker, is revealed at the end to be none other than Kendra in disguise.
    • Kyle himself is this for Lindy, who had a crush on him when he was human and who has no idea that he's her friend "Adrian".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: For casting a spell with no discretion and on a spoiled teenager that could have benefited from a milder bruise to his ego, Kendra is forced by the other witches to help Kyle break the curse she cast on him or she'll be permanently exiled from their home and she'll be stuck as Magda forever. There's a reason she tells Kyle/Adrian not to smash the mirror.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: The chatroom Kyle frequently visits after he's transformed is set up as a support group for transformed people, and the other members talk as if they're from other fairy tales. Whether the other members are legitimately living out their respective stories in real life, or are just role-playing online is left to interpretation.
  • Meaningful Name: Kyle starts calling himself Adrian after his transformation, a name which means "dark one", as he decides that "Kyle", which means "handsome", doesn't suit him anymore. In reality, Adrian is a Latin-derived name that simply means "man from the town of Hadria" and Kyle comes from a Gaelic word which means "channel" or "strait", but the inaccuracies can be Hand Waved by the reasoning that Kyle looked them up on the Internet which is not a 100% reliable source. Linda is also the Spanish word for pretty.
  • Missing Mom: Kyle’s mother divorced his father when he was young. In Kyle's narrative, he reveals that she moved to Florida and married a plastic surgeon, but he hasn’t seen or heard from her since.
  • Mistaken for Fake Hair: In an update of Beauty and the Beast, Kyle is a high schooler who has been turned into a humanoid animal covered in hair. He understandably becomes a recluse, but on Hallowe'en he takes the opportunity to go out, blending in with people in costumes and hoping to find a girl to break the curse. Unfortunately, the girl he tries this with is too interested in the quality of his "costume" and tries to pull some of it off with a very hard tug.
  • Never My Fault: When Kenda reveals herself as a witch and confronts Kyle with three of his past transgressions, he has an excuse for the first two. Tell another small child her head is weirdly shaped? He says he's not accountable because it was "kids stuff". Deliberately not invite two "ugly" kids to his party? He argues that this took place around the time his mother abandoned him. But the last one (getting the whole school to prank call a mousy girl who had a crush on him) leaves him speechless for an excuse.
  • One-Word Title
  • Parental Abandonment: Kyle's father never paid much attention to him even before the curse, and Linda's father is a drug user who gives her up to what he believes is imprisonment in a beast's dungeon. Both of their mothers also died when they were young This is one of the things they bond over, really.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: After he's cursed, Kyle destroys all the mirrors in the apartment. Kendra only manages to convince him not to smash the magic one.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Sloane, although it's less about her not having a personality than her personality being genuinely shallow and her interest in Kyle based solely on him being handsome and popular, which is why Kyle trying to kiss her to break his curse fails.
  • Setting Update: It's a modern-day adaptation of "Beauty and the Beast" told from the Beast's perspective. The Beast is a Jerk Jock with an emotionally distant media mogul father, the Beauty is a Hollywood Homely bookworm with a drug-dealing father, and the setting is modern New York.
  • Shared Universe: Presumably with Alex Flinn's other books: A Kiss In Time 2009, Towering, Mirrored, and Cloaked
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Linda, after trying on the dress she and Adrian find in the attic.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Lots of stories inspired by the original fairytale, like The Phantom of the Opera, Jane Eyre and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. There are also several references to other fairy tales as Kyle chats with more modern people living them, such as "The Little Mermaid", "The Frog Prince", and "Snow-White and Rose-Red".
    • To the Disney version. Kyle's "servants" have their own "curses" lifted when Magda's children are given green cards and Will regains his sight. The reason for and nature of the curse is similar. When Kyle was human he insulted Kendra for her ugly looks; the analog to the prince refusing an old beggar woman to take shelter in his castle because of her haggard appearance. Before Kendra curses Kyle, she appears to be an attractive woman like the old beggar woman revealing herself to be a beautiful enchantress. The curse is punishment for being prejudiced to the enchantress when she appeared ugly. It also has a time limit and if the “Beast” fails to find love before the deadline, the curse becomes permanent. Both versions also feature a Magic Mirror that functions in the same way.
  • Snow Means Love
  • Title Drop: Kyle begins the story by saying he'll tell the reader how he "became... beastly."
  • True Beauty Is on the Inside: Explored. Kyle started out handsome, but was miserable with his home life, and was also a rotten jerk. After he's turned into a beast by Kendra, the experience challenges him to develop redeeming qualities other than good looks. Meanwhile, he comes to fall in love with the allegedly mousy Linda because her love of books makes her stand out from the other teenagers. The story explores how both parties fall in love with each other for their inner beauty.
  • True Love's Kiss
  • Twice-Told Tale: A retelling of Beauty and The Beast.

The Film of the Book provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Name Change:
    • Kyle Kingson, as opposed to the original Kyle Kingsbury. Also, when changing his name, Kyle opts for "Hunter" instead of Adrian.
    • Magda's name is changed to "Zola".
  • Adaptational Attractiveness:
    • The "beast" just looks like a really hardcore punk kid who's been in a fight, which to a modern audience is arguably a lot sexier than his pretty boy form. Word of God said they refused to use the fur from the book immediately - opting for a form that Kyle himself would consider ugly.
    • Kendra goes from the overweight, green-haired, pimply-faced, raggedly-clothed girl of the book to porcelain-skinned, white-blonde Mary-Kate Olsen in a black high-fashion wardrobe, stiletto heels and eccentric eye makeup.
    • Lindy is describe in the book as 'a sort of mousy-looking girl', not ugly enough to pick on, and just overall average, yet she is played by the gorgeous Vanessa Hedgens.
  • Alpha Bitch: Subverted with Sloane, though we don't see too much of her bitchiness. She says she often felt pressured to act like an Alpha Bitch just to please Kyle - and is happy that she doesn't have to, now that he's not around any more.
  • Avoid the Dreaded G Rating: Everything that qualified this as PG-13 (the words "slut" and "bullshit," 30 seconds of violence, and a couple of drug references) could have been easily removed or slightly altered down to PG without affecting the story.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Hunter leaves a message telling his father not to pretend to care anymore after one too many canceled plans via text message. Lindy does this too when she points out her father is leaving her with a total stranger and that he basically sucks as a parent.
  • Chick Flick: Lampshaded by Will when he pokes fun at Hunter's decidedly un-macho plan for building a rose garden greenhouse as a romantic gesture.
  • Chick Magnet: Kyle, and it's easy to see why. Although of course, the whole message behind the film is the importance of inner beauty, as opposed to outer.
  • Clark Kenting: Handwaved due to Kyle and Lindy having only briefly spoken twice before his curse (despite her crushing on him). She makes sure to mention both times that they hadn't met or talked in the previous three years so it's clearly spelled out for the audience.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Kendra is a Goth Chick who favours lots of black, and is very abrasive - not to mention being the one who cursed Kyle. But she only did it to make him learn An Aesop that ultimately helps him become a better person. Notably when Kyle comes to her begging for help for Will and Zola, she genuinely seems to care. And she follows through on her deal at the end.
  • Decomposite Character: In the book the housekeeper is revealed to be Kendra in disguise. In the film they are two separate people.
  • Fantastic Romance: Between Hunter and Lindy.
  • Feigning Intelligence: Invoked by Kyle. He tries to get lesson plan answers in advance to sound smart and impress Lindy, and confesses to Will that he looks up modern poetry to pick up girls. To his initial dismay, he accidentally selects one of Lindy's favorites.
  • Freudian Excuse: Kyle's viewpoints and poor treatment of others directly mirror his father's, and it's implied he spent his entire childhood being ignored by him.
  • Goth Girls Know Magic: Kendra is portrayed as a goth girl, dressing all in black and wearing heavy eye makeup.
  • Hot Witch: Kendra.
  • I Am What I Am: In the alternate ending, Hunter tries going to Tuttle to talk Lindy out of leaving for her trip, only to find she's (allegedly) already left. Unfortunately, he's publically spotted by the mortified student body. When questioned who he is, Hunter demonstrates his Character Development by voicing that he's who he is, regardless how he looks. This perfectly frames that even when he knows his only chance of breaking the spell has been lost, he's made peace with how he looks and is no longer obsessed with appearances.
    Student: Who are you?
    Hunter: Who am I? ...I'm just me. Inside and out.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Kyle's father is essentially the reason he became such a shallow asshole and disappears from the story early on - with only a brief moment where Kyle tells them not to pretend to stay in contact. The final scene of the movie is a new intern starting in his office: Kendra.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Kyle is trying to explain to Lindy what happened to him, and in doing so basically describes the plot of "Beauty and the Beast".
    Lindy: Everyone knows that story.
  • Lighter and Softer: The film is overall a lot sweeter and lighter than the book. The more graphic self-harm and just-plain-harm scenes are not included, nor is the climatic end scene where Kyle gets shot (although it is available on the DVD as an alternate ending). Also, Kyle is not as obsessive about Lindy to the point of it being creepy, nor is he as ugly or brooding as he was in the novel.
  • Mysterious Protector
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Alex Pettyfer, kind of a lot. Likewise LisaGay Hamilton, as his Jamaican maid.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Surprisingly, this is Kyle's campaign speech... to the people voting for him. And then they still elect him.
  • Review Ironic Echo: Many negative reviews latched onto the line "Get ready to embrace the suck".
  • Revised Ending: In an unused ending the guy after Lindy ends up catching her and Kyle has to come to her ends up getting injured. They both fall asleep and when they wake up, Lindy realizes that Hunter was Kyle all along.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Sloane, again. After Kyle disappears, she immediately goes out with his wingman. However, it's heavily implied she knew this when she is heard confessing she didn't like herself while dating Kyle and felt like she had to pretend to be someone else.
  • Secret Test of Character: Kendra bluntly informs Kyle that she only accepted his invitation to the party to see if he would change; it's only after he shows himself to be as arrogant and inconsiderate as ever that she curses him.
  • Something Only They Would Say: When Kyle takes Lindy to a zoo at night as part of an outing, he takes her to an elephant exhibit and tells her his backstory about how it inspired him to wish he knew such unconditional love. To this, he asks if she can imagine that sort of love. After the curse is broken, Lindy doesn't recognize him. He frames his character arc as a fairytale, before asking the same question from before, verbatim. Between this and his cellphone ringing when she calls "Hunter", she figures out who this is.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Hunter. Despite the fact that he mysteriously presents Lindy with several boxes of her favorite candy, Jujyfruits, she never calls him out on it.
  • That Came Out Wrong: Kyle's dad tries to invoke this when he says that they would be willing to risk everything to restore Kyle's original appearance. Since that basically implies to Kyle that his father would risk him dying rather than accept his son looking like that for the rest of his life, Kyle doesn't take it well.

The later books provides examples of: