Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Review: The Beast of Bellevue by Grace Chen


by Grace Chen
Reading Harbor
Young Adult Contemporary


"He was the most beautiful boy that she had ever seen...and she had confused him with her prince."

When 17-year-old Dylan Albright mischievously creates a dating website posing as his unsuspecting heartthrob brother, he doesn't realize what is at risk is his own heart. Locked in Bellevue Sanatorium, 17-year-old Ava Pierce stumbles upon soccer star Alec Albright's photo and 'Hire-A-Friend' dating service. Eager to get out and meet her prince charming, she sets out in search of her own independence. But what happens when the love of her life is not who she thinks he is?

A twist on a tale as old as time, the Beast of Bellevue explores the meaning of friendship, the value of beauty, the boundaries between the virtual world and real world, and the importance of developing one's self-identity.


Friendship and romance swirl through a mist when the virtual world meets the real one in this contemporary, teenage romance.

Ava has spent the last years eight years in an asylum, but thanks to her grandfather, has received a gadget, which lets her connect with the rest of the world through the internet. There, she runs runs into a 'friendship service', which concentrates on one boy. Little does she know, it's his younger brother, who's secretly running the site. Soon, she's caught up in a strange, blooming friendship and crush...with a guy who isn't who she thinks he is.

Firstly, I headed into this book expecting something a bit different than it really is. While the idea of a girl locked up in an asylum and a website with a boy's false identity promised, at least, a few 'dark shadows' in my mind, I got it wrong. The first pages do present Ava, a girl who's been unfairly locked away in an asylum for much of her life and, for all intent and purposes, ignored by her family. Even the doctor's lack of interest gives the hint that something edgy is on its way. But this tale isn't dark or mysterious or eerie. It flows more into a modern day teenage drama, where friendship, love, learning to accept ones self, and fighting against preconceived opinion remains key. It's fine, just not what I had in mind after reading the blurb or first pages.

It is interesting to see how Ava's and Dylan's lives weave together from unexpected origins. The mix-in with the social realm of the internet, adds a wonderful layer which teens will easily connect with. The characters come across pretty naturally with problems that are easy to understand and connect to. The author goes at this through several points of view. These flow well, but then the entire story is an easy, quick read. The romance is sweet, and there are several meaningful messages in these pages. YA romance fans are sure to enjoy more than just a few moments of this story.

This one is also sold as a Beauty and the Beast re-telling, which is too bad. While I expected to see some clear connections, there weren't many similarities. The nods and hints at the original fairy tale are very slight, and far and few between. Also, I had trouble connecting to the characters, in general. The author simply 'tells' quite a bit about them, instead of letting the reader get to know them personally by 'watching' or experiencing things with the characters. This 'telling' keeps the reader an arm-length away, never allowing me to really dive into the tale and get lost in the pages. 

But all in all, this is an entertaining read. It's easy and fun to follow what happens between Ava and Dylan as they weave their way through very different backgrounds and circumstances. The romance is one to draw more than a little smile, and YA romance fans are sure to enjoy it.

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