Beastly by Alex Flinn The other day I mentioned Beastly by Alex Flinn and mistakenly said it was by Suzanne Collins. I would love to read Beastly by Suzanne Collins, but sadly it’s only available in a parallel universe.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins I enjoyed Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (although I only read the first in the series) but her latest The Hunger Games is much darker and thought provoking. I read Beastly and The Hunger Games in quick succession and they morphed into one in my rantings about the Productivity Commission’s report on removal of parallel importation restrictions on books. I said the copy I read was printed in the US. Subsequently I looked more closely at the paperback Beastly and found no mention of where it was printed. I’m pretty sure it’s a US produced book due to the not-so-white paper and a second barcode on the inside front cover, which I don’t think Australian produced books have. Most books state where they were printed, as did the hardback of The Hunger Games I read (printed in the US).

I have a thing for pictures in books (in case you hadn’t noticed) and when a book has no pictures, I have to make do with the cover, thus I’m passionate about cover design. Despite my non-existent design skills, I have an amazing ability to establish just how lacking someone else’s design skills are :P which is what I’m about to do with Beastly and The Hunger Games.

I wasn’t particularly enamoured of the cover designs of either book. They’re both true to their contents but the “futuristic” font of The Hunger Games grated and the rose on Beastly annoyed me. You can’t really see this from the small pic of the cover, but it had some strange texture thing going on, which I obviously didn’t get. The roses in the story are real and the cover rose just looked photocopied. (Spanish cover is way better.) But I don’t hate everything, if you remove the dust jacket of The Hunger Games the golden mocking-jay on the plain binding is stunning.

Persnickety Snark reviewed Beastly last week.

It was a great read that wasn’t overly challenging but contained enough tweaks to the original formula to make it entertaining.

She was kinder than me. I thought it was enjoyable fluff and a fun read. Reading it beside The Hunger Games may have coloured my view – Beastly just didn’t compare. But Ms Flinn does provide quite a long excerpt of Beastly on her website, so you can decide for yourself. And I love her (very girly) website design.

As Shakespeare and Beastly attest, there are few new ideas in the world, it’s what you do with them that matters. A discussion on IMBD questioned how much The Hunger Games was recycled from Battle Royale. I’ve never read or watched Battle Royale, but I love Series 7, a definite rip-off of BR, which I don’t think diminishes Series 7. Battle Royale isn’t a comedy, unlike Series 7, so perhaps this, and the adult “Contenders” in Series 7, make for less similarity.

The first I heard of The Hunger Games was someone suggesting it was a rip-off of Battle Royale and there are more superficial similarities between these two than between BR and Series 7. How do I know this if I’ve never read BR? Edward Shaddow filled me in on the Battle Royale basics. At first I didn’t realize how heavily The Hunger Games may have borrowed from Battle Royale. When I said to Edward that Collins’ sequel will probably involve an overthrow of the government he said that’s kind of what happens in the second Battle Royale movie (Batoru rowaiaru II). To emphasize the recycling going on with BR, there’s a novel, manga* and two live action movies.

The discussion on IMDB pointed out:

This may have been inspired by Battle Royale, but don’t forget that BR itself was largely based on such works as The Most Dangerous Game, The Running Man and The Long Walk. The Hunger Games may well have been inspired directly by any of those.

In any case it seems the author has missed on the single most crucial element of Battle Royale – the characters are best friends. Pitting random people against each other does not create anything near the amount of emotional intensity found in BR. If you do not know or care about your opponents, weighing your life against theirs becomes a rather uninteresting exercise in simple logic.

The commenters haven’t read The Hunger Games and don’t realise there is love between contestants. I particularly liked how dense Katniss was when it came to her admirer. As you’d expect with people who aren’t psychopaths, even the killing of total strangers is fraught with difficulty. The comparison between Katniss’ skill at hunting dinner, her squeamishness at wounds and sickness, and her unwillingness to kill people was very clever.

I hope I made it clear how amazing I think The Hunger Games is, recycling or not. Everyone should read it, and it makes the ideas of its predecessors available to a different audience. Edward reminded me the audience for YA novels are (supposedly) not allowed to watch R-rated movies. Luckily for teenagers everywhere Collins realized this. Australian Year 8s are already studying The Hunger Games in class. I hope they compared and contrasted it to the Battle Royale manga :P

It’s important we, particularly the next generation, consider the ideas encompassed in The Hunger Games. It seems so wrong to have a reality TV show based on killing, but if the Romans had TV they would have broadcast gladiator matches and our nightly news is often a forum for the day’s killings. While this is not meant as entertainment, I don’t watch TV news because I don’t want to see the horror we’re capable of, reading about it is bad enough. I don’t think we’re all that far from the dystopian world of Panem.**

Btw there’s a movie of Beastly in the works and I am not impressed with the casting or Beastly makeup.

* I have flicked through some of the Battle Royale manga. I saw the “adult content” and decided I could skip reading it and stick with Series 7. When I worked in a public library our graphic novel collection was next to the YA section and included BR and 300 beside Bone and Batman. I can’t remember how much BR went out, but no one ever whined about its placement. When I started my research and gave talks about GNs I had examples to show the diversity available. Battle Royale (and Sin City) were my examples of sex and violence.

** My brother has a theory that YA books have to be set in a dystopian world. Perhaps this could add to the debate on what makes a YA book.

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