cover image The Year of the Beasts

The Year of the Beasts

Cecil Castellucci, illus. by Nate Powell. Roaring Brook, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-59643-686-2

Castellucci (First Day on Earth) and comics artist Powell (The Silence of Our Friends) mix narrative and graphic storytelling to produce an innovative, moody story about jealousy and grief. Through Castellucci’s prose, readers learn about 15-year-old Tessa’s growing rivalry with her younger sister, Lulu, who starts dating Tessa’s crush, Charlie, and grabs the spotlight among Tessa’s friends (“Tessa was a smoldering coal ready to light up at any moment.... Tessa believed that Lulu was stealing her place”). Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, Powell’s skillful b&w panel art envisions Tessa’s life through the lens of myth and monsters, with Tessa cast as Medusa, outcast and terrified by her ability to turn others to stone; her best friend Celina a mermaid; Charlie a centaur; and Jasper, a loner Tessa dates in secret, a minotaur. The story builds toward a tragedy that leaves Tessa devastated and sheds light on the themes of the graphic interludes. Readers will appreciate their access to Tessa’s dark emotions throughout; this is a book teens will likely read and reread, gaining greater understanding as they piece together the two halves of this challenging coming-of-age story. Ages 12–up. (May)