The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy and Beastly

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer is a cute book, about an art school that's suffering from the  invasion of a reality show that's a bit like So You Think You Can Dance, or America's Most Talented or whatever it's called, or even American Idol. Called For Art's Sake, the series pits several seniors against each other, all of whom are competing for a gigantic scholarship.

The story is told from the perspective of a philosophical daydreamer called Ethan. He feels like he doesn't really belong in the Arts Academy. He says he can draw and he can play an instrument but everyone else is much more talented. While he has a close circle of friends, his best friend is a gerbil named Baconnaise. (Warning to anyone who has loved and lost pocket pets; semicolon Baconnaise gets a tumor towards the beginning of the book which of course runs through him like wildfire. It's extremely sad and brings up memories of past lost tiny furry friends.)

Ethan and his friends are not fans of the show, although they hate watch it together every week, but their dislike and distrust ramps up exponentially when Ethan inadvertently discovered that the show is scripted. He and his friends decide to protest, and since they are art school students they use the form of a very long poem, which they print and hand out to the other students. The school administration cracks down on them and they push back even harder, as they discover exactly how tightly the reality show has become entwined with the school.

If this book have been pitched to me as angry students write a long poem I'm not sure that I would have wanted to read it, but I'm glad that I did. It's entertaining and it's a quick read. I wouldn't call it great, but it's a nice way to fill up an empty Sunday afternoon, as long as you don't get terribly sad over lost pocket pets.

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Beastly by Alex Flinn is another book that I liked but didn't love. A retelling of Beauty and the Beast, this one is a bit different in that it's told from the point-of-view of the Beast. Kyle is an incredibly obnoxious, stuck up, rich brat who goes to a fancy private school, where he looks down on just about everyone. He has no relationships where he isn't either using the other person or being used or both at the same time. As the story begins he's getting ready to go to the big dance at school and he sees an "ugly girl" in his class and decides that he's going to ruin her dance. He invites her to go with him, fully intending to ditch her in front of the entire school.

End result, she turns out to be a witch and curses him in the traditional Beauty and the Beast format. Suddenly everything this kid has relied on is gone. His good looks. His social status. He does still have his father's money which is very useful, but his father sticks him in a house in Brooklyn and leaves him there, not spending any time with him whatsoever.

But it's hard to feel sorry for someone who's deep down such an awful person. Of course the Beauty and the Beast story is all about growth, although usually the growth is coming from the Beauty who has to learn to see past skin deep characteristics. In this case it's the Beast that needs to do the growing.

My favorite part of Beastly was the interludes in which l the Beast is online as part of a support group for cursed characters from other fairy tales. There's The Little Mermaid, The Frog Prince and a couple of other from popular stories. I'd be very interested in knowing who the moderator is and what his story is but I never found out.

So this is a fun story but of course it's weirdly creepy. The original stories are also weirdly creepy, in that Beauty's horrible father gives her to a bear or beast or whatever in exchange for going free himself. Kyle justified taking his girl prisoner by saying that she's obviously better off with him than with her negligent father, who gives her away at the drop of a hat.  Maybe he has a point, but kidnapping is not something to look at lightly. Beastly is an interesting exploration of all types of different morals and mores.

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Bonus Treat

This week's bonus treat is inspired by the news that John Hinckley was finally released from the mental hospital. This is the incredibly creepy song from Assassins, which is a duet sung by Hinckley and Squeaky Fromme (also released, as is Sarah Jane Moore). He's singing to Jodie Foster and she is singing to Charles Manson.