Title: The Year of the Beasts
Author: Cecil Castellucci
Illustrator: Nate Powell
Release Date: May 22, 2012
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (Macmillan imprint)
Every summer comes the carnival, its trucks rolling in, bringing infinite possibilities to town. This year, Tessa and her sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line for everything. The rides, the food, and the boys. But this summer also brings jealousy, and will set in motion a course of events that will put everything to the test.
The Year of the Beasts is such a surprising story, told in alternating chapters of prose and comics. It gives readers insight into a girl who just wants to belong, who wants to keep her place, who doesn't want to be overshadowed by her younger sister. This book was heartbreaking and emotional, honest and powerful. Your heart will bleed for Tessa.
The start of the book was so uniquely summer for teenagers. The carnival comes to town, but just for a little while, so you have to rush before it leaves. There's magic in the darkness, if you're brave enough to find it. But then it leaves and summer happens. Summer, where everything changes, and you wonder how it'll be going back to school, how you're so different than you were a few months earlier. How the world can change in the blink of an eye.
Tessa wasn't necessarily a familiar character in the sense that she reminded me of one from another book, but her struggle was. She's maturing, she's trying to find her place in that young adult range with friends and family and school and boys, but just millimetres behind her is Lulu, ready to unknowingly take her place. It's a battle of the siblings, but only one person knows.
The alternating comic chapters were so compelling, filled with gorgeous artwork. At first glance, it doesn't look like it mixes well with Castellucci's prose, that instead of Tessa's summer you're reading a separate story about a lonely Medusa girl and her troubled life, but then you understand the larger picture. Everything is connected and soon your heart breaks, but it doesn't matter if the cause was Castellucci's words or Powell's art. The metaphor in the comic pages took a few chapters to understand, but then I'd read the prose chapters and think back to the comics, I'd realize which beast was which person and vice versa.
In the end, we're all beasts, no matter how much we don't want to be or how much we try to hide it. The bast we can do is accept it, to move on, to understand that we're not alone. The world is full of beasts.
(I received an e-galley to review from Macmillan through NetGalley.)