Friday, June 22, 2012

Review: The Year of the Beasts

Author: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Pages: 192
Source: Library
Why I read it: Saw this recommended on Clear Eyes Full Shelves' Book Matchmaker and wanted to read it right away. Luckily the library had a copy.
Summary: (from Goodreads)
Every summer the trucks roll in, bringing the carnival and its infinite possibilities to town. This year Tessa and her younger sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line to experience the rides, the food... and the boys. Except this summer, jealousy will invade their relationship for the first time, setting in motion a course of events that can only end in tragedy, putting everyone's love and friendship to the test.

Alternating chapters of prose and comics are interwoven in this extraordinary novel that will break your heart and crack it wide open at the same time.

As stated before, I saw this on another blog and was instantly drawn into the book because of the cover. The cover is amazing. The expression on the girl's face shows her distaste with having snakes for hair and she looks intense and angry. From the blog posting and the cover, it seemed like this book is based on mythology, specifically, Medusa. However, after reading it, that is both true and not true. Spoilers are below!

Tessa and her younger sister, Lulu, find that jealousy begins ripping them apart after Lulu begins dating Tessa's crush. Tessa becomes very jealous and feels like she is losing her best friend and the boy she liked and also sees her sister blossoming into a young adult and gaining attention. At the same time, Tessa is falling for a boy that everyone else thinks is weird and she hides this from her sister and friends. The story culminates in Lulu being killed after they go swimming in the flooded river and the aftermath. The plot was pretty heart wrenching, although I saw it coming once Tessa, Lulu and their friends went swimming.

The book is both graphic novel and prose. It goes back and forth, and the illustrations mirror what is happening in the story. The graphic novel solely focuses on the Medusa story, except Medusa is a high school student. I had trouble figuring out how the graphic novel matched the story, but then towards the end of the book, the illustrations reflect how Tessa feels about herself and her sister. The illustrations also appear to "begin" towards the middle of the prose. Once I understood how the Medusa plot line tied in with the main plot line, it became an effective way to tell the story, but it was a little confusing at first.

I was expecting a little more Medusa and mythology from the book, so I think the cover is a little misleading. The story is mostly Tessa and her feelings, especially her jealousy of her sister and is a coming of age story, albeit, a very tragic one. I did appreciate how Tessa does not really solve any of her problems and is still grieving over her sister at the end. The ending is open ended and the reader does not know what happens to Tessa after her sister dies and after her secret boyfriend rejects her. This can be tied into the myth of Medusa, as Medusa does not have a happy ending either. However, I wish the mythology had been more apparent in the prose.

Overall, I liked the use of Medusa as an exploration of a teen's coming of age, but I feel like this wasn't utilized as well as it could have been. The cover was misleading, not only in the plot, but I was also expecting only a graphic novel.


  1. Greek mythology books! Wow, this seems like something really epic, but as you said, it doesn't seem to have been utilized fantastically. Great review- I'll be sure to check this out soon!

    Teenage Fiction

    1. Yeah, I haven't really seen the book on other blogs, so it will be interesting to see what you think!