Thursday, September 10, 2015

Beast by Ally Kennen

Life is anything but easy for 17 year old Stephen.  As a foster kid he is living with a family that is not his own, one screw up away from a life on the street or behind bars - or at least that's what his foster family seems to think.  For the past few years his life has revolved around getting through the day and escaping the attentions of his conniving foster sister Carol, who seems to delight in making his life a confusing hell.  Stephen is honest with himself at least, he knows he isn't perfect - how can he be when he is keeping a vicious beast hidden in a cage at the local reservoir.  His life is a careful balancing act, and that balancing act is about to come crashing down through no fault of his own.

Beast is one of those rare books that was an excellent read when it was written, and has barely dated in the ten years since.  Stephen is an incredibly sympathetic character to relate to, and I find him unusual in that although he is essentially painted as a "bad apple" by his social worker, his foster family, and pretty much everyone else - he is in fact a very responsible young adult who is trying to make his way with some incredibly heavy emotional baggage and secrets.  Most teenagers struggle day-to-day because being a teenager is horrible - you are caught between being treated like a child and being expected to make grown up decisions, you are expected to make decisions about your future when you are struggling to decide who you are as a person, and you are also dealing with all the physiological changes that come on the back of hormonal and brain chemistry changes.  Stephen is not perfect, but he is the perfect character to experience this story through.

Rather unusually, Kennen has chosen not to pull a lot of punches with her story - even though it is a relatively short novel to contain all emotional baggage and social commentary it does.  In many ways this is the novel I would have craved as a teenager, hard hitting and honest about what life can be like if you don't live in a white picket fence world with both your parents.  While this story is based in the United Kingdom, it could just as easily be a story set in other parts of the world - foster children are kicked to the curb when they "age out" all over the world, expected to fend for themselves when most children are still protected and supported by their parents.  Kennen is a hard hitting author who gave me several enjoyable hours as I sank back into the story of Stephen and his monster.

A great read if you like books for teenagers about what life is really like for teenagers - rather than something light and fluffy.

If you like this book then try:

Reviewed by Brilla

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