Title: The Beast Is an Animal
Author: Peternelle vanArsdale
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Publisher: Margaret K. MacElderry Books (Simon & Schuster imprint)
Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village. These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys. Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.
The Beast Is an Animal is deep, dark, and dangerous. Full of mystery and sorrow, of something that wears at the soul.
Alys is a girl of secrets. Secrets that would do her no good if they were spoken aloud. Secrets about the soul eaters and how she saw them as a child. Secrets about the Beast and how she's seen It, how It asked for her help. After the death of her parents, of the village, she becomes watchful in a town of fundamentalists, of those who fear what they cannot see or feel. Those who fear the Beast because It is unnatural, because It is like nothing their holy books say should be revered. Alys knows that walls, preaching, and fingerpointing won't keep them safe from the soul eaters. But what about what lurks inside Alys, hungry, waiting. She knows she's not like the other children, knows what's inside her. Knows it is the most dangerous of secrets.
Throughout the entire book a question raced through my mind. If the Beast is an animal, then what are the soul eaters? What is Alys? What are the townsfolk of Defaid? If the Beast is an animal, are we the monsters? Are we the ones that should be feared, the ones that go bump in the night? So many monstrous things are done by humans in the name of faith and good intentions and self-preservation.
This story is atmospheric and chilling, so unlike most books I've come across. It's deep and draining, mysterious and eerie. It's a slow burn, this story, but it takes time for anger to grow, for fear to develop. For death to come. This is a book about fear and judgement, about life and death, about what makes a home a home instead of just a place. I would definitely recommend this to those looking for something very different in terms of YA, like The Walls Around Us and The Darkest Part of the Forest.
(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Simon & Schuster Canada.)