cover image The Beast Is an Animal

The Beast Is an Animal

Peternelle van Arsdale. S&S/McElderry, $17.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-4814-8841-9

Alys was only seven when soul eaters killed the adults in the village of Gwenith. She was then taken to nearby Defaid, where she made a life with new parents. It isn’t much of a life, though: when soul eaters attack Defaid, a “great wooden Gate” is built around the village, and the children of Gwenith must guard the Gate through the night. Theirs is a colorless existence, and Alys feels the pull of the dark “fforest” surrounding the village, and the beast that lives there. From the sorrowful opening that introduces the soul eaters, van Arsdale’s lyrical debut spans about eight years, revealing the growing darkness Alys feels inside and the weight of the secret she carries. When Alys is accused of a terrible crime, she’s forced to leave the village and confront her destiny. Atmospheric and immersive, van Arsdale’s eerie fantasy keeps its focus on Alys’s struggle to reconcile who she is with what she wants to be as it builds toward a poignant and satisfying conclusion. Ages 14–up. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Feb.)