Okay...let's do this.
I give this book a star for one thing.
The story concept.
I was a huge fan of Beauty and The Beast growing up, like literally, that movie was life for me back then, so naturally I love the concept of modernizing the story.
Unfortunately, the TV show, the film based off of this book, and now the book itself, have failed to live up to my expectations. And just to put things in perspective, the film didn't do all that well and yet I still find it better than the book...yeah.
I know some people are like, it's a YA novel, you know what to expect.
NO! Don't give me that.
Just because it's a YA novel, does not mean it shouldn't be held up to certain standards.
Okay, before I get into this, know that I stopped at page 100. I figured if the book wasn't impressing me by now, then what's the point? Hell the love interest had barely been introduced and I'm already 100 pages in? Red flag number one. But I did read a summary of the end and boy was I glad I stopped reading.
I'm not at all impressed with Flinn's writing skills (as far as this book is concerned). A lot of moments and lines are forced or just come off cheesy. Her characters are all stereotypes with no depth whatsoever. The whole online chat thing...I'll get to that later. I noticed grammatical errors and her use of pop culture isn't clever. It gets a bit annoying after a while. Apparently making up words is okay with her too. Loserishly was actually used as an adjective to describe an action. "Loserishly standing."
I was a teen once, and yeah we made up slangs, but loserishly?
I really wanted to love this book. I swear.
Okay, here's what I expected. I expected the author to take the story and make it her own. I expected a modern day situation that reflected the theme of Beauty and the Beast. We all know the importance of recognizing that beauty isn't everything, all that glitters isn't gold, the grass is never greener, etcetera, etcetera.
I was ready for something new, familiar, but new. I was ready for the story to be told in a way I've never imagined.
Apparently the author didn't do much imagining herself. She literally tries to take Disney's Beauty and the Beast and put it into a New York City setting in a very literal way. From the fur and claws, to literally exchanging a girl for her father's freedom...more on that later.
I couldn't take this book seriously from the very beginning. This is supposed to be modern day New York right? It's supposed to be the real world. So why the hell is he in a chat room with the little mermaid, a frog, and a bear (Brother Bear? Ballu? Lil John from Robin Hood? Not sure which Disney bear he is).
Am I supposed to take this seriously? Its modern day New York and a frog is typing at a computer? Its modern day New York and Silent Maid aka Ariel, is trying to figure out whether she should give her voice for some legs.
If this is supposed to be a modern day thing, then why not make these characters more realistic. Witchcraft does exist in reality. Sure it may not be like the movies, but that right there is your fantasy element. In your world witches are real and can cast curses or hexes. You don't need to have literal fantasy characters to legitimize the Beast's curse.
The mermaid: maybe she did something for a guy she liked out of kindness, but the mean girl at school takes the credit and now she doesn't know how to get her crush's attention. The frog: he could have been a trust fund baby, who's been cut off from the family and now he's trying to find a way back in. I mean there are many ways to modernize these stories and Flinn really didn't try.
The fact that Kyle turns into an actual beast is just ridiculous to me. I actually like the idea from the movie where he had scarring and weird tattoos that covered his body. That is what you call modernizing. Flinn doesn't modernize anything, she takes the same events from the cartoon and then tries to make them happen in the real world and it fails to crossover.
Example, the witch. In the cartoon, the witch comes to the prince as an old lady. She asks for shelter, the prince turns her away because she's ugly. She transforms into a beautiful fairy and casts the spell on him.
Finn's version: Kyle (the homecoming prince, which by the way it's homecoming king but she changed the wordage just for the sake of copying the story lick for lick) asks the school's "gothic looking chick" to be his date for homecoming. She gets there, he makes out with his real girlfriend to embarrass our "witch" and later she casts a curse on him. Mind you while she's casting this curse, she is slowly transforming into a "hot chick" as Kyle puts it, right before his eyes. There is absolutely no point for this except to say well that's what happened in the Disney movie. But that doesn't mean it has to happen in this book.
There are so many other things Kyle could have done to prove he was deserving of that curse. Finn doesn't give us any of them. Instead she forces her story to stick by the original and that is the problem.
Another situation, the love interest. I didn't get far enough to remember her name so let's just call her Belle. We all know how the story goes. The beast holds Belle's father captive and when she comes to rescue him, the beasts forces her to take her fathers place. Very big deal, and happens very early on in the story.
Finn's Version: I got to page 100 and there was no sign of the love interest, so clearly it did not happen early on. But when it did happen, it was "Belle's" father who broke into Kyle's home and was stealing. Since her father didn't want him going to the cops he says "Hey, you can have my daughter. See ya."
Did you not just say this was modern day New York? I don't care how you try to cut it, "Oh he was willing to sell you just so he wouldn't face punishment." Bullshit. There is no way that could work in the real world. This is the point where she is hindering the possibilities of her story, simply because she's trying to stick so close to the original story.
A retelling is called a retelling for a reason. It means you're allowed to change some things. It means you're allowed to deviate somewhat from the original, especially when you are trying to modernize it.
Kyle is a spoiled teenage boy that does nothing but talk about who's ugly, who's good looking, who's rich, who's poor. I understand you want him to be a jackass, I understand you wan't us to dislike him, but stop forcing it. Kyle pretty much explains everything that goes on. He explains his personality, he explains his relationship with his father, he explains his every day life. Golden rule of writing people: Show, Don't Tell.
There are so many things he could have done, that would have the audience like "Wow, he's really an ass." I didn't think that the whole time I was reading. I was thinking, "Wow, he's really annoying." Even if you are trying to make this person unlikable, you still have to make sure your audience cares about him enough to want to know his story.
Like I said, I didn't finish the book, so I don't know how his character arc ended. But judging by other reviews, no one learns any real lessons. However the book is as preachy as ever. Instead of revealing the theme as the story goes on, it's shoved down our throats. But we already know the theme anyway, that's what makes it so irritating.
Also, be consistent with your characters. Granted Flinn wasn't consistent about anything. In Kyle's case, one minute he's telling off his nanny, disrespecting her culture and country, the next minute he's apologizing for throwing a tantrum and telling the maid about how it's not her fault. Is he going to be a jerk, or be a jerk that's trying to change...pick one. At the moment, any kindness he does is an after thought. According to others the only change that really happened was him becoming more whiney.
Oh yeah, she tries to make it seem like they are millionaires. His father can afford the best of the best doctors, he can afford luxury apartments and condos because he's a newscaster?
I'm sorry but even if he is the most popular newscaster to ever live, his salary maxes out at around $130K a year.
For a book that is supposed to be a modern day story, there's nothing realistic about it.
There are a few beauty and the beast modernizations on my to-read shelf...hopefully they're better than this.