❈ Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for providing me with an ARC❈
Title: The Best Is an Animal
Author: Peternelle van Arsdale
Release Date: March 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fairytale
POV: third person
A girl with a secret talent must save her village from the encroaching darkness in this haunting and deeply satisfying tale.
Alys was seven when the soul eaters came to her village.
These soul eaters, twin sisters who were abandoned by their father and slowly morphed into something not quite human, devour human souls. Alys, and all the other children, were spared—and they were sent to live in a neighboring village. There the devout people created a strict world where good and evil are as fundamental as the nursery rhymes children sing. Fear of the soul eaters—and of the Beast they believe guides them—rule village life. But the Beast is not what they think it is. And neither is Alys.
Inside, Alys feels connected to the soul eaters, and maybe even to the Beast itself. As she grows from a child to a teenager, she longs for the freedom of the forest. And she has a gift she can tell no one, for fear they will call her a witch. When disaster strikes, Alys finds herself on a journey to heal herself and her world. A journey that will take her through the darkest parts of the forest, where danger threatens her from the outside—and from within her own heart and soul.
At this point, I am 100% sure that “it had potential, but…” will be the words on my gravestone because I find myself saying nearly everyday. Unfortunately, here I find myself again uttering that famous phrase. The Beast Is an Animal had a lot of potential: a fairytale-esque setting, mysterious soul eaters, haunts from the forest, and a girl grappling with her dark self, but in the end, it fell completely flat.
World building is one of the most important parts of a story, and something that I’m especially picky about. The Beast Is an Animal ran into some serious problems with it because there essentially was none, and the parts of the world that existed were incredibly dull. In the story, there is a religion in which people follow “The Good Shepard”. The religion itself is like Christianity (I mean look at the terminology) and even includes witch hunts. The followers are all incredibly one dimensional pitchfork holders, and the Elders
(capitalized for uniqueness~) are more of your basic witch hunting religious motivated villains who have morality so black and white that they literally. wear. black and white. It was just embarrassing. Since so much of the conflict was stemmed in religious hatred for witches and all things magic, the story was essentially doomed. There were also a couple of references to how brown people weren’t approved of in the story by the villagers, but the racism was never expanded on besides offhanded mentions… It was weird.
All the characters were cardboard cutouts propped up by the quirky name spellings like “Pawl” and “Alys”. Mother was the only character I was mildly interested in, but she really wasn’t anything that special. Unfortunately, Alys was a snoozefest. The lack of dialogue and reliance on descriptions really didn’t help her development. I was especially disappointed with her because I LOVE the “accept the thing that is giving you shame theme” story arc. It is a way to get easy points with me (and is why this doesn’t get shelved into one of my “evil” shelves), so it was really disappointing that I couldn’t even enjoy the aspect of the story I should’ve loved most. Her development and inner conflict was really only in the last part of the story making it feel incredibly rushed and underdeveloped. The added romance with her character also didn’t do her any favors. Her conversations with Cian made her development feel faker.
The supernatural elements of the story needed a lot of work. Since the world building was so nonexistent, the supernatural elements really suffered. For example, the Beast’s (who I really thought would get more than 5 scenes) deal was never explained. All we got was a picture in a book that Alys was looking in and the Elder calling it Evil. Also, the soul eaters had their problems. They themselves were also one dimensional like all the other characters, but it was especially damning because they were supernaturals. Despite being introduced in the beginning, they felt like an afterthought because of the lack of attention and depth they had.
There were two things that I actual did like, which were the “I’ve never seen the sea” trope and the pictures that divided the book’s parts… That was about it.