Without including spoilers or giving too much away, I’m going to be honest. I did not find that The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci and Nate Powell really ticked the boxes of elements of a great book, if you understand my meaning. If you check out the Goodreads reviews, you’ll find that some people point out exactly what bothered me when I first read it: the all-encompassing nature of the protagonist’s fixation on boys. And the relationships in the novel are frankly toxic. But to be fair, these are teenage characters, and their self-centeredness and lack of emotional development is spot-on.
You’re probably wondering, then, why I’m recommending this book. Just for the structure, really, which I really loved. (I’m sure there are other books with similar structures, but this is the first one I’ve seen, and so it stuck with me.)
The chapters alternate between graphic (post-summer) and prose (during summer). This means time skips as the “mystery” unravels like a ball of yarn in a labyrinth. The graphic chapters are made up of beautiful art that uses Greek mythological creatures and figures to represent the characters’ feelings and perceptions of one another. On that note: if you’re a fan of YA and Greek mythology, you might like this book.
[Side glances at certain members of the Modcast team.]
Another thing that stayed with me were the themes. The Year of the Beasts deals with lots of things I myself remember struggling with as a teenager: self-esteem, love, siblings, and even grief and loss, the latter of which are the center point of this story. Personally, I think these themes were explored in an innovative way that not only keeps the reader’s attention, but also encourages the reader to pause and think about how the characters are acting and reacting to the events of the novel.