Book Review: Beast by Brie Spangler

beast cover

Beast
by Brie Spangler
GoodreadsAmazon
Series: no
Release date: October 11th 2016
Rating: Different in a good way.

I guess that I should start with saying that I am a white, straight, cis woman and my review is going to come from that perspective.  I can’t speak for others.  I really enjoyed this book.  I found the writing engaging and the characterization was strong enough to make me tear up a couple of times.

I found Dylan to be a sympathetic yet flawed character.  I found him lovable and at the same time I wanted to scream at him because he kept making TERRIBLE choices.  He was pretty damn self-centered.  I liked that his character arch included figuring out how to communicate with the people in his life because holy crap was he bad at it.  He is incredible uncomfortable with the physical reality of his body which is something that I haven’t really seen explored in a male character before. He also falls into the trap of projecting his ideas of himself onto others. 

I felt like Jamie was her own person.  I read a couple of reviews that mentioned that she felt like a “magical manic pixie dream trans girl” but it didn’t read that way to me.  I felt as if she had a life outside of Dylan.  The book focuses on how she is affecting his life but to me that was just because this book was being told from Dylan’s perspective.  I like that she was a strong enough person to refuse to compromise or hide herself to fit herself into Dylan’s life and into his future plans.  

I wish that the secondary characters were better developed.  Dylan’s mom is great in the whole “I am going to help you and in the process steamroller over your life” kind of way.  I never really figured out JP.  I think that he was supposed to grow from more than a douche but I am not sure that he did.  I could have used more closure there.  I am struggling to think of any other characters.

There is a lot of hype around this being a trans book but I found it more trans adjacent.  It explores transphopia, the cruelty and fear that trans people face everyday, and the trans experience in itself.  It does it however though the lens of another character.  This book normalizes those who are transgender.  It makes them part of the larger community of YA that inhabits my brain.  This is all great.  For me as an outsider.  I am not sure that this book is mirror up to trans women in which they will see themselves fully reflected. This book is more like someone else looking in the mirror and you can see yourself behind them.  Which is okay.  I think we need books like this.  I am just waiting for that other book to be written (actually lots of them!  There is more than one story to be told!) because there still seems to be a need.

My feelings about Beast, whatever the flaws, are overwhelmingly positive.  The message seems to that while the world and love itself are not perfect there is still hope for us all. And who couldn’t do with hearing that?


From Goodreads:
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?