Peternelle van Arsdale is a book editor who never thought she'd write a book. She lives in New York City, where she is at work on her second novel. Visit her at http://peternellevanarsdale.com.
Title: The Beast is and Animal
Genre: YA Fantasy-Fairytale
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication: February 28th 2017(ARC says March 7th)
Cover Rating: 4/5
Lately, the YA book world has been taken a storm by fairytales and all the amazing retellings. What could be better than a twist on your favorite childhood tale? I personally LOVE that retellings are a big thing right now. I know, soon, they will die out just like Twilight and its Vampire craze. But unlike with Twilight, fairytale retellings can capture a wider audience of readers with their diverse stories and characters. Fairytales have so many elements that I feel it is entirely possible for them to outlive all the other book crazes. But, what about original fairytale ideas? The Beast is an Animal falls into that category. Maybe, one day, people will be writing retellings about this book.
This book starts off with a rather 'Salem Witch Trials' event. Woman gives birth to twins. The town somehow ends up seeing those twins as being evil. Town makes sure the mother and twins are exiled. Small town hive mind is a dangerous things. But that situation did lead me to an idea and left me wondering a lot. That idea being, do people create their own monsters? Their own tragedies? Or is everything just destined to turn out this way whether someone acts on an impulse out of fear or not.
So, the book is told around the comings and going of the twins. They are called soul eaters. I feel like the best way to describe them would be to say they are Dementors except in a more human form. They serve a similar purpose, is what I am getting at. These sisters seek as form of revenge on a family member that didn't help them when the town was trying to kick them out. From this act of revenge, we meet a new character, Alys. I pronounce it 'Alice', but I could be entirely wrong. Alys lost her family because of the soul eaters. She is picked up by a man on his way to her village to do a trade and that is where the story truly begins, at least for me it does.
The man Alys meets is named Pawl. I ended up really loving Pawls character. I really wish he could have taken Alys and raised her or something other than the situation that did end up happening. But that would have meant the end for the book so I understand why that couldn't have happened.
After everything with Alys village and the other kids is sorted out Alys has to figure out some stuff and she ends up going in the place where The Beast is said to live, the fforest. Yes, fforest, that is not a typo, even though I did think that the first time I saw it. And from there I cannot say much else or I'm afraid I would be getting into spoilers.
So, to recap, the book starts out in a tiny village. I would like to give you guys a year so you could better imagine what things looked like but the best I can do is say that it's a village where you would think Little Red Riding Hood would take place. There is a Beast that the villages fears(which really makes me think of Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge). There are paranoid villagers that end up on a witch hunt which, I feel, caused their downfall, creepy ass nursery rhymes and then an adventure where a girl ventures out in an attempt to try to repair herself, her world and to get away from people before her secrets become known and she is branded a witch herself. But also to finally figure out what The Beast's true purpose really is. I am just going to stop here, if you aren't convinced that you need this book in your life then I feel sorry for you!(just kidding... or am i?)
With all the fairytale aspects aside, this book has a very scary and hard to swallow meaning behind it. Fear. Fear makes people do the most insane and horrible things. With all the stuff that is happening with the real world this very moment, and although this book is a work of fiction, the meaning and morals are still very real. Fear makes entire towns, cities, countries, etc, do horrible things. Hitler? Slavery? The very real war we are still a part of today? I don't think telling everyone they need to learn how to love people even when they are different is going to ever work in this world. It isn't love, or even hate, really, that makes this world so terrible. It is fear. Fear is the root of most evil and FEAR will be the wrecking ball that tears this world apart.
A little extra to add to the review. This is more on a personal level. When I was younger, around age 7 or 8, I started watching horror movies. Nothing like the good old SciFi channel, right? Well, now it's called SyFy and I haven't been on that channel in years. But before it became mainstream, it gave me my love for all thing macabre. One of the movies I loved the most was called Ginger Snaps. Over the past few days I found myself flashing back to scenes of those movies(yes, there are 3 in total). I couldn't figure out why until I sat down to write this review. The third movie takes place in a village much like the one in this book. I not entirely sure why this book connected in my memory to those movies but I'm entirely okay with that and am happy for the reminder that those movies exist.
Overall, I gave the book 4/5 stars.
1) Series or Standalone: I believe the book is a standalone but I would be okay with more books in this world.
2) Would you recommend it: Yes. Especially if you are enjoying the fairytale retelling craze. This book is an original story but is a fairytale to me.
3) Glad you read the book: Yes, I actually am. And I am not eagerly awaiting the authors next book! Especially now that I know it's going to be another dark fairytale!
1) What inspired you to write The Beast is an Animal?
I was most inspired by the classic Grimm fairy tales that I red as a child and have been obsessed with every since. They’re quite dark, and even the ostensibly good characters behave in terrible ways. As an adult I’m still fascinated by the idea that we’re all good and bad combined. That’s definitely an underlying theme in my novel.
2) Are you a coffee, tea or soda drinker? Any drink suggestions?
Primarily a tea drinker. My new obsession is matcha lattés, which I make at home (unsweetened), with almond milk. I got myself a nifty little hand-held milk frother that does a great job. They’re also wonderful cold in the summer.
3) What was your favorite part to write in The Beast is an Animal?
I’d have to say the prologue, which I wrote before I even knew what the novel was going to be. It was such a magical writing experience. I sat down and wrote those twelve pages in one single flow of inspiration.
4) What is your favorite genre? Do you have any book recommendations?
I don’t have a favorite genre, I’m pretty omnivorous—although certainly I go through stages in my reading where I seem to be drawn more to one thing than another. The books that have meant the most to me in terms of forming me as a writer are the three that make up the HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy by Philip Pullman. Recently I particularly enjoyed V.E. Schwab’s A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC, and I’m looking forward to finishing that trilogy. Right this second I’m close to finishing Margaret Atwood’s CAT’S EYE, and it’s so suspenseful I almost can’t bear it.
5) Are you currently working on any more books?
Yes, I’m at work on my second novel. It’s also a dark fairy tale that should appeal to the same readers as THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL, but it has a completely different setting and set of characters.
6) If you had to pitch your book to a potential reader, in person, what would you say?
It’s a dark fairy tale about how fear makes people do terrible things, such as build walls and turn our backs on the most vulnerable members of our communities.