{Early Review} The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci  + Nate Powell

{Early Review} The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci + Nate Powell

I don’t know what I was expecting from The Year of the Beasts, but I definitely didn’t anticipate having my heart ripped out and stomped to bits in this slim, heart-wrenching novel-meets-comic. 

Young adult novelist Cecil Castellucci and comic artist Nate Powell teamed up to create a fascinating story told in alternating chapters. Castellucci’s chapters are straight-forward narrative about the changing relationships between two sisters as they both navigate their first romantic relationships; Powell’s chapters are beautifully drawn comics of an alternate reality in which a girl with snakes for hair navigates a new school year.

Eventually the two storylines merge, and that’s when the heart ripping and stomping hit. 

I can’t write a review of The Year of the Beasts without first discussing the format.

As I said, it’s half comic, half traditional prose. I am a relative newbie to the world of graphic novels and comics, though I’m very interested in visual storytelling forms, and found this mix made the visual chapters very approachable. While the drawings are black and white (for some reason, I thought this would be a turn-off), they are so nuanced and detailed that the art is incredibly vibrant.

The graphics draw (puns!) on the Medusa myth, creating a novel that’s full of magical realist elements. It’s a different approach that’s very successful in The Year of the Beast. 

The writing is stunning, full of pain and hope and emotion. 

I had not had the opportunity to encounter Cecil Castellucci’s writing before, but it is such a treat to read and to linger upon. Written in third person, her words draw you into Tessa’s world more so than many first-person YA novels, 

They weren’t just making promises with words, but with their bodies. She lay back on the blanket that he always had spread on the ground, a childhood comforter, worn down from use, splattered with cowboy themes that bucked beneath her. She was overcome in waves. Was this what bliss was, or pure joy? Complete happiness? She imagined that it was. She imagined that this moment, frozen, was the one that she would carry with her in her heart forever. Outside was full of stars. They went about their business of warming up distant planets. A part of their light reached Tessa. She was warm on arms full of promises and potential.

The Year of the Beasts is a unique take on the common themes of first love and sibling rivalry.

I have to say, there is a massive, enormous twist in The Year of the Beasts that makes it extremely difficult to thoroughly review without completely spoiling it. Needless to say, this was not the sweet tale of summer love that the original book description led me to believe it would be. However, Castellucci and Powell’s twisty story is so very worth the emotional investment and anyone who enjoys novels which experiment with storytelling forms with certainly be entranced by this distinctive novel.

FNL Character Rating: Becky Sproles, at her pained, late-season four lowpoint. 

Publication Date: May 22, 2012

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A review copy of this novel was provided by the publisher via Net Galley. I received no compensation or other rewards for this honest review.

Note: While I read The Year of the Beast in digital format on my Kindle Fire with the Montano app, this one would probably be more enjoyable in paper form, as the illustrations are really wonderful and the zooming and such is kind of a pain in digital format. 

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