The Year of the Beasts
By Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Nate Powell
Expected publication May 22, 2012 by Roaring Brook Press
For the first year, Tessa and her younger sister Lulu will be allowed to go to the carnival without an adult chaperone. Neither of them can imagine what a difference this will make in their lives from that point on.
There are probably a number of people who would see me publicly shamed for having never read Castellucci before this point. I know, I know. But, you guys, seriously. There are so many books. And just never enough time. Unfortunately, Castellucci is one of those authors who has been on my radar for a while but whom I haven't yet had the chance to read. I wasn't really sure what to expect from this book when I picked it up at Midwinter but the idea of it intrigued me - it sort of seemed like a Hugo Cabret for teens, with its alternating chapters of prose and comics. I didn't really get what was going on for the first part of this novel. In the beginning, the alternating chapters don't really seem to be connected, at least, not in any way that I could make sense of. I think the best word to describe this book is "deceptive." Now, I know that has a negative connotation and I don't mean to imply that I didn't enjoy this book or that I feel negatively about it. This book is deceptive in the true sense of the word. It's deceptive that the prose and comics don't seem to be connected. It's deceptive that this book is about two sisters testing their independence and discovering first kisses. It's just deceptive. But that's what makes this a really good book - it punches you in the gut when you're not expecting it. I find that books that have surprised me in some way are the books that stick with me (the best example I can think of off the top of my head is Happyface by Stephen Emond; here's my very short Goodreads review). Castellucci and Powell have really crafted a masterful book with this title. I will definitely be checking out her other books as soon as I can. This is one to watch - I think it has great appeal for teens.
Thanks to the publisher for an advance reader's copy.