BAMF Review: Beast by Brie Spangler

Posted December 31, 2016 by Jamie in BAMF Reviews, Features, Reviews // 0 Comments

BAMF Review: Beast by Brie SpanglerBeast by Brie Spangler
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 11th 2016
ISBN: 1101937165
Pages: 336
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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 the two things that let him hide, his hat and his long hair, 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 during 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 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, a true romantic hidden inside a realist, and a devoted friend, who is also transgender. Will Dylan’s hang-ups about himself cause him to lose the best girl he’s ever known?


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As a disclaimer, both Dani and Jamie are cisgendered and therefore are not experts on lived experiences of transgender persons. Please see other reviews by transgender people about the representation to have a full understanding of whether or not it was positive or negative.

This is one of the rare times that we had similar ratings of a book but had opposite reasons for enjoying it. So we are going to break it down by issue and see where we lined up and where we differed so you know where this falls. However, this is a very meh book and not one we would wholeheartedly recommend.

The first place Dani and Jamie differed is about the “retelling” aspect of this one. Jamie liked the retelling aspect of it and thought that Spangler did a good job working in elements of the original story and twisting it to fit into contemporary times. She enjoyed that Dylan’s personality and aspects of his life made him more of a “Beast” rather than a curse on him or anything like that. There was a subtly to the retelling and it wasn’t completely in your face where you knew where the plot was going — little things here and there were similar to the original story that were a wink and nudge to the classic tale. However, Dani was confused as to how this could be considered a retelling since the only aspect of the original story she picked up on was that Dylan was a Beast and Jamie was a Beauty.

The next differ was Dylan as Dani liked his character and Jamie did not. Both of us agreed that Dylan was unlikeable because he was a bully and a brute — and didn’t seem to care much that he was seen that way. Dani, however, liked that he felt realistic and had reactions that she or people she knew would have in regards to Jamie, the character not the person, being transgender. The same could be said of Dylan’s mom, JP, and the rest of the characters who had a negative reaction to Jamie’s gender identity.

However, Jamie thought that while it was realistic, it wasn’t unpacked enough to really be considered not problematic. There were so many transphobic things being thought by Dylan throughout the novel and that is NOT okay. It wasn’t really unpacked or explained and it made it more problematic than not while reading because it reinforced the ideas that Dylan was thinking rather than what he “learned” along the way. She believes that if you are going to include problematic aspects into a novel, then it must be explained properly so that stereotypes are not just reinforced but rather are broken down to see why it is incorrect and inappropriate to have these thoughts.

Both Dani and Jamie thought the pacing was terrible. If we hadn’t been reading this for our BAMF Review or #12DaysOfDiversity, neither of us would have finished it. It was going well until Jamie’s identity was realized by Dylan, but after that it dragged on and on. We would recommend checking this one out from the library or reading someone’s recap of it rather than picking it up for yourself.

BAMF Breakdown
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Jamie
Overall:

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Discussion Questions

What did you think? Let us know in the comments, making sure to preface any spoilery comments with “SPOILER DISCUSSION”.

  1. What is your favourite Beauty and the Beast retelling?
  2. What other books have you read with transgender characters? Give us some recs!
  3. If you could make a wishlist of retellings you’d like, what would you include?

Next time, see Dani and Jamie review UNDER ROSE TAINTED SKIES by Louise Gornall.

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