Hairy all over and rapidly approaching seven feet tall, 15-year-old Dylan resents how perfectly he fits his nickname: Beast. After a particularly bad first day of sophomore year, Dylan climbs out onto his roof to get some peace and quiet, and wakes up in the hospital. His leg is broken, and he’s been enrolled in group therapy for self-harmers. Though he’s determined to stay detached in group, to say nothing and hear nothing, he can’t help but notice beautiful, confident Jamie—and she notices him, too. The two connect in a way Dylan’s never connected with another person before—let alone a girl—but Jamie has a secret. It shouldn’t change anything, but it changes everything.
Brie Spangler’s young adult debut offers a smart, sensitive approach to finding your place when all you can do is stand out. Dylan and Jamie are both radically different from their high school classmates, but Spangler’s just-right touch reveals their complexities as outsiders. Jamie is completely in tune with the challenges she faces as a transgender girl, yet this one aspect of herself does not define her. In the same way, Dylan is much more than his nickname. Both protagonists have a lot to learn from each other about acceptance—of others and of themselves.
Sometimes touching, often funny, always honest and human, Spangler’s Beast is a powerful debut and a wonderful read.
This review was originally written for and published on BookPage.