In this subtle reworking of a fairy tale, a teenage boy from a poor family works off a debt to a rich girl nicknamed the Beast.
High schooler Beau LeFrancois lives in California with his large family; his father, a Cajun transplant, picked oranges until a recent fall left him with several broken bones. His mother works as a maid to a rich family, and Beau helps out by ferrying their son, Khalil, home from school. But Beau’s sister is getting married, and money is tight. So when Beau’s mother has an uninsured fender bender involving teenager Bettina “Bett” Diaz of wealthy Diaz Ranch, it’s a problem. Bettina’s father makes a deal: Beau can repay the $1,000 deductible with a month of weekend chores at the ranch. The prospect isn’t made brighter when Khalil, who knows Bettina from his school, explains that everyone calls her “Bett the Beast….Take my advice and stay away from her.” Beau is no stranger to hard work and wants to be a builder after high school, so he can handle the arduous weekend tasks. But Bett keeps him off balance with her lack of filter and fierce gaze. Surprisingly, she shows up to work alongside him; as Beau learns more about Bett, he’s sure she’s no beast. Though their developing relationship is threatened by the consequences of a lie, dramatic events bring healing truths to light. In her YA novel, Berla (The Kitty Committee, 2018, etc.) skillfully blends a fresh retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” with insights from the #MeToo movement in a way that’s engaging, not didactic. When the tide of public opinion shifts in Bett’s favor, it’s genuinely moving. Beau also nicely models good comradeship when, for example, he challenges Khalil’s catcalling: “Okay, well just keep in mind that what’s fun for you I can one hundred percent guarantee wasn’t fun for those girls.” Beau has things to learn as well, like trusting his rich friends not to be embarrassed by his small, crowded house. Humor and drama effectively bounce off each other in Beau’s believable narration.
An entertaining YA romance with multilayered characters—a winner.