The Beast and the Bethany. I don’t know what I was expecting when I heard that title, but it certainly wasn’t this. No, but what I got in the end was better. So much better. Every chapter more surpising than the previous one, the story darker than I would have expected, and a beast hungrier than ever heard of before. This may be a middle grade, but every adult reading this will be entertained, I can guarantee you that. Now let me tell you why I think so! But first, as always, here comes the blurb!
The most exciting new children’s book of 2020 and a modern classic in the making.The Beast and the Bethany has all the classic macabre humour of Roald Dahl with the warmth and charm of Despicable Me, finished off with a gleeful bite of Little Shop of Horrors! This book should be on every little monster’s birthday and Christmas list.
Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan…
This goes to show that a book doesn’t need dozens of characters to be great. Only a handful is enough – when done right. Ebenezer Tweezer is over 5 centuries old and still kind of behaves like a child sometimes: he’s stubborn, wants what he wants when he wants it, has no sense of what’s right or wrong. Or does he? Well, with the beast’s latest wish he is definitely going to get more of a sense of that. At first I found him terribly annoying, very rude and arrogant, but later… well, he still was, but in a much more likeable manner! Lol but really, in the end he grew very close to my heart. My first connotation of his name was Ebenezer Scroodge, and that wasn’t so far off! I loved how this book portrays this problematic adult, and the way the child (not any less problematic) deals with him.
Bethany is one of the rudest and boldest children I ever read about. She lives in an orphanage and is probably the least favourite of all the other kids and the woman who looks after them (or, well, let’s just say is supposed to look after them). She is speaking her mind and never lets anyone censor herself, she’s brave and headstrong. We learn that back at the orphanage, Bethany was bullying other children, and at first she doesn’t see any fault with that. But as much as Ebenezer is bound to learn, so is Bethany. And the journey to where they are both heading together – wanted or not – was a very special one to follow.
Another point I absolutely loved and have to highlight are the illustrations in this book. They are so much fun and help you envisage scenes even better. It’s not like the writing needs them, but they are definitely a big bonus! What I found really special is the fact that Bethany is not portrayed in a very cutesy, pretty manner. While the young Ebenezer looks impeccable and beautiful, the first glance at Bethany reminded me of Wednesday of the Addams family. With her black hair, dark circles under her eyes and grungy clothing she does not represent an angelic, innocent child, and I think this is just the way it’s supposed to be. Because Bethany isn’t like that. She speaks her mind, tells Ebenezer to “bog off” and isn’t even afraid to fight a monster. She is different, maybe not super likeable at first but perfect for this story, and I loved her in the end.
The beast… well, that’s a different story. The beast is very charming, very eloquent, it could make the impression of being not much of a monster at all – if it were not for his three eyes, two tongues and IMMENSE hunger. Ebenezer did a good job of feeding the beast for the past centuries, but now the beast’s appetite has gotten out of control. I loved seing the conflicting emotions arise in Ebenezer, when he realises what’s good for him and what’s good.
As you can see, this book has some really morally grey characters, some very badly behaving ones and scenes which are actually pretty cruel and shocking and some I didn’t expect at all. And yet, I raced through this book in the matter of a few hours because I was so hooked – from start to finish! I loved seing the characters’ development and growth, and I loved seing their relationship prosper. Even if this was brought about by the wrong reasons at first, this changed later and made the outcome all the more beautiful.
There is a quite dark atmosphere in this book and I caught myself thinking ‘wow, is this really for kids?’ at times, but the meaningful messages and funny scenes mix things up again and balance the negative ones out. Calling them negative doesn’t mean I liked them less, by the way. They all belong to this book and made it what it is, but you do get some cruelty and pain, sadness, grief, fear and more that some people, especially younger children, might not be comfortable with. Just be aware of that.
This excellently written middle grade is funny, entertaining, shocking, sad, dark, deep, and touches upon some very important topics. I raced through it and couldn’t stop before I hadn’t turned the last page, and now I cannot wait for the next book!!! This was a 5 star read from start to finish! I hope you pick it up, it publishes on the first of October, so mark that date in your calendar!!!
Thank you all so much for reading and do make sure to have a look at the other stops on this tour!
Big thanks to Egmont Books and The Write Reads for the digital copy of this book and for my spot on the blog tour. Receiving this copy did not influence my review in any way. All thoughts are my own.