Beth has always been The Beast - that is what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Bethas only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she is selected to be her choir as soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever.
When Beth's choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek's untethered passion for music - and for Beth - leaves her breathless. Because in Derek's eyes? She's not The Beast, she's The Beauty.
When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek?
The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek's been hiding a dark secret from her a - one that could shatter everything.
Katiebabs had reviewed this book some time ago, and ever since, I've been waiting for its release to read it, and in fact, actually bought it that same day. Her review had brought me to tears, talking about such a beautiful love story, and knew I just had to get it.
Summary: Beth is "The Beast", mocked and cruelly picked on by all her school mates, except for her best friend Scott. She has frizzy hair and glasses and awful acne, and she's tall, even taller than a lot of the boys, so she's considered a freakish giant. The treatment of her by the various boys in school is horrific and appalling. It made me very sad to think of kids having to suffer through that, and that these bullies get away with it.
Other than her friend Scott and her supportive mother, Beth has one other thing in her life that carries her through: music. Her choir teacher is trying to get them accepted into this amazing musical event that will take place in Switzerland, but their singing is mediocre at best. To make matters worse, their soloist, the pretty and spoiled Meadow, is suffering from a strong case of nerves. During one of her panic attacks, Beth offers to take Meadow's place so they can continue to practice their chosen song, and once she begins to sing, it's like a light has turned on inside her, and Beth totally takes everyone's breath away. The power and beauty of her voice is like a gift from God. No question, they've found a new soloist, one that will get them to Switzerland.
After some small power play involving Meadow and her parents, who eventually relent with common sense when they realize Beth really is the much better singer, everyone sets about getting ready for the event. Even Meadow becomes one of Beth's biggest supporters. Soon Beth goes from Beast to Beauty, with new hair, improved skin, new wardrobe. It's like Miss Congeniality for teens.
Beth and the choir are accepted into the concert, and with the help of Meadow's parents, travel to Switzerland. There she meets Derek, the boy who tried to "friend" her online, and the two fall in love with each other, sharing an extraordinary passion for music. They have many magical moments together while abroad, and decide that when they both go home - Beth to Michigan and Derek right across the border in Canada - they will continue their relationship.
Beth is afraid though, because she's heard stories about Derek, and witnesses him taking drugs and isn't sure how she feels about this. Plus, he continues to push her away, and keep secrets from her. She demands answers. However soon her love for him blinds her to everything else, including her best friend Scott, and she decides she'd rather have whatever part of Derek he's willing to share with her. She's a teenager in love....
This is a very moving tearjerker of a story, yet it didn't not affect me in quite the same way as it did Kate. Yes it was at times beautiful and heartbreaking, but at the same time, it was a had more rolling my eyes at the teenage theatrics, which were, at times, over-the-top even for a YA romance. Yes, I get the overdramatic feelings of today's teen, having remembered it so very clearly from my own teenage years, but sometimes it really went overboard. I had to take a step back and put myself back to those days of crushing on boys; the agony of an unrequited crush, the excitement when he smiles at you, the pain of not seeing him every single minute.
Please don't get me wrong. I do understand Beth's pain to an extent. Without having a pity party but to explain why I would understand her feelings so well, I will tell you that I am one of those people who definitely knows what it's like to be the ugly kid with no friends. I was the one who wore the funny clothes and who had really short hair so I was teased mercilessly about being a boy in a dress. I recall those days of feeling scared and unworthy when I was surrounded by other, normal kids. From the time I was in kindergarten til about 4th or 5th grade, I didn't have any friends, and not very many for the remainder of my time in school. I never had a boyfriend during that time either. I'd been called ugly more than once. Those memories never really leave you, but at the same time, they can make you stronger. You don't have to let them win. I have moved on from that time, and now looks aren't all that important, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a completely negative experience. I will always remember those years, but I don't let them control me. Reading this story brought back a lot of these feelings, but at the same time, I'm able to see how far I've come.
Another thing I noticed that while reading this book, that I had strong flashbacks of Twilight/New Moon, where you have two boys in love with one girl. One boy is all exciting, mysterious, wounded. He pushes the girl away for her own good and brings her pain because of it. The other one is solid, dependable, and cares deeply for the girl, stands by her no matter what, gets her through some of her darkest times. And the girl inevitably falls for the bad boy. I get that. Really I do. And here it's not quite so black and white. Derek may have been the bad boy, but at the same time he's going through his own difficult issues and it's hard to hate him because of it. He was a decent young man, full of dreams, but sometimes life takes you off the path of your choice.
What I liked:
- The music. More than anything, I believe music is the most pure and universal way to bring people together. Who couldn't help but be moved by the depth and passion of the music? It's a lovely, wondrous thing, and I loved that Beth and Derek had that between them.
- Scott. He stands by Beth through her callous treatment of him, always being her friend, even when she hurts him over and over. He cares so deeply for Beth, has for a long time, despite what others call her. Scott is a rare person, and I loved him for being such a true friend to Beth, even when she didn't always deserve it. (In case you haven't figured it out, Scott would be Jacob in this love triangle).
What I didn't like:
- The complete physical transformation of Beth. It was just too convenient and unbelievable to have her go from this supposedly hideous creature and become a beautiful girl. I mostly didn't like it because of the message it sends: that a young woman cannot amount to anything unless she's pretty. Plus it obviously cost thousands of dollars, and I just found it to be too easy of a fix. It was disappointing.
- Beth's behavior through most of the book. She goes from being a Beast physically to transforming into one intellectually. Her behavior towards Scott and later Derek frustrated me, and at times made me wonder how she inspires such loyalty and devotion. There are moments throughout the book where we see signs of who she is deep down, and I liked that person. It's a shame we don't get to see that side of her too often. She had to grow up fast here, and it was a sobering experience at times. So I couldn't hate Beth, but I was disappointed in her a lot of the time.
That being said, I was utterly moved by the ending of the book. There were some truly enchanting moments, the kind that we dream about when we are a teenager full of hope and ideals. There's pain and heartache, and love and acceptance. There's deep friendship and understanding.
So while it had its issues, this book was not unworthy of being read. Even now as I write this, I'm turning into a major watering pot remembering all the lovely moments, the sad ones that had to happen, and the growing up each of the characters had to do. I think what this book tells us too, is that even a love story has its flaws, and unlikely things can happen.
Rating: **** out of *****
Labels: Angela Morrison