Monday, July 23, 2012
The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell
Fluid prose meets evocative comics in this tale of young love and regret. Alternating chapters of prose and comics seem to be telling different stories until the narratives meet in a shocking way. Tessa experiences growing pains she never thought she'd have when her little sister Lulu wins the heart of the boy Tessa loves. Tessa enters a quiet rebellion when she starts having trysts with Jasper, the strangest boy in town. Unable to get over her jealousy, Tessa’s coldness toward her sister rises until a tragic event convinces Tessa she has been a monster to everyone.
Powell's art is a reminder that beasts are both terrifying and beautiful; some are revered while others are shunned, often for unjust reasons. Characters from Greek mythology are set against a contemporary American backdrop that illuminates sorrows and burdens that are at once ancient and new when felt by these young people.
Readers looking for a play-by-play retelling of the Medusa story won’t find it here. Castellucci’s story comes with its own set of complexities that don’t always parallel their source material. Tessa’s snake hair has to do with the feeling that she alienates others, and can’t talk to people without hurting them—by turning them to stone, that is. She’s a monster, and so is everyone else involved in her last summer of adolescence.
Despite Tessa’s self-imposed exile, she is able to find forgiveness in herself and her friends. This is a story that reminds us life goes on even in heart-breaking circumstances. It is about how we are monsters to each other without realizing it, without meaning to, and about how we are still able to change for the better when at our worst. The Year of the Beasts is a must read for fans of Greek mythology, retellings, and comics.