I received this galley in consideration for an honest review.Beast by Brie Spangler
Published by Random House on October 11, 2016
Genres: Young Adult, LGBT
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 hats (his preferred camouflage), 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 at 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 self-pitying and 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 and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?
When I got an email about Beast I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a Beauty and the Beast theme with a transgender love story. My instincts were right, because I really enjoyed it. Dylan is completely and totally uncomfortable in his own skin. He feels like he is too much – too big, too hairy, too everything. His dad’s death from cancer both haunts him and motivates him when he thinks about what he wants to do in the future. The accident that landed him in group therapy was also to beginning of a journey for Dylan where we saw everything he thought about himself get stripped away. Beast is told from Dylan’s point of view, and I will tell you that it makes you so aware of how often we comment on a person’s appearance. Dylan cannot escape his body, but he also comes to realize that he may have allowed people to take advantage of him because of it, as well.
The whole misunderstanding with Jamie was an interesting set-up. Since Dylan spaces out during group, he misses that Jamie is transgender. He got to know Jamie for the person she felt she was inside – a teen girl with interests, hopes, and dreams. Dylan is completely smitten and can’t believe that this pretty, creative, and funny girl is interested in him. Their flirting and banter is sweet, but it’s also a little sad because Dylan has so obviously put himself down for a long time because of what he views as his beast-like appearance. Although we don’t get Jamie’s point of view, her exasperation with the way the world simultaneously condemns and concern-trolls transgender teens was eye opening for me as a cis reader. While everyone tried to “protect” Jamie (including Dylan) and warn her about the danger she faces, she rightly turns the mirror back on Dylan and forces him to really confront his own hang-ups about the space he inhabits in the world and his feelings for Jamie. Their romance was complicated and sometimes rocky, but also very sweet. I loved Dylan’s journey and I loved his relationship with Jamie. Beast was a sweet, sometimes heartbreaking, and emotional love story. I loved reading a story that really explored what it takes to feel comfortable with who you are, inside and out, and the hard emotional work it sometimes take to get there. Beast deserves a place on your reading list this fall.