AH! I literally screamed when I learned that Ashley Poston was coming out with a Beauty and the Beast retelling. While this particular story has often been hit or miss for me with the ones I’ve read, I was pretty sold on Bookish and the Beast before I even had it in my hands, let alone started reading. I think it had something to do with the title. Of everything, I fell in love with that title instantaneously. Plus, it helps that I’ve really enjoyed Poston’s prior novels.
Despite not being a con-goer and typically finding that area of being a fan difficult to relate to, I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed each and every Once Upon a Con novel so far. Retellings have always been my jam, really, so of course I picked them up. But the truth is that I did not expect to like them as much as I have.
Bookish and the Beast is Poston’s best novel to date.
Set after the ending events of ExcelsiCon, Bookish and the Beast picks up with Rosie Thorne, a young girl who has somewhat recently lost her mother as she enters her senior year of high school. She is prepping for college right alongside her family’s immense financial struggles as a result of her mother’s medical and funeral costs. Upon following a loose dog into what she believes is the abandoned castle home of her neighborhood, Rosie finds herself in the unfortunate circumstance of needing to pay for the damages on a priceless first edition Starflame novel.
Thus begins Rosie working for (sort-of) non other than Vance Reigns to repay her debt.
This novel was pretty phenomenal. From the central couple to each and every piece of the retelling, I loved it. I even loved the Gaston character, at least insofar as he was brilliantly written (the guy was a capital J – Jerk which Poston portrayed so well!). The pacing was fantastic, keeping me thoroughly engaged the entire time. Bonus points for diversity and inclusion re: the LGBTQ community with a non-binary and a bisexual character, none of which felt forced at all.
And I loved Rosie and Vance.
I have to be fair here, however, in admitting something about the book I could see as a potential problem. Poston skipped over a fair amount of the connection building between the two love interests. Basically, we’re meant to accept that they have built up feelings for each other based on a night that they had prior to the majority of the events that take place in the book. The initial connection they have is shown as a sort of brief look into the night they met while leaving out the majority of their conversation. Then we’re met with a flash forward.
Honestly? I was okay with this.
It didn’t really take from the novel for me. As far as I’m concerned, made the couple feel more real than I believe any slow build up of excess interaction in the beginning would have. In my opinion, the decision to leave out the majority of their first night getting to know each other was the right decision. Poston instead just acknowledged that their night happened and delved deep into how it made the characters feel. And it was brilliant.
This take probably won’t work for everyone.
It did work for me, though. I found myself literally on the edge of my seat as I stayed up egregiously late into the night to finish the novel the very day I started it. From fantastic characters to great commentaries, this book had so much to love. The tension between the two main characters was perfect. And while certain events were predictable–it’s a retelling, that’s to be expected–my only complaint comes from Vance’s response to that predictability.
Still, these characters were fantastic.
Vance was not the typical cookie cutter of bad boy actor you usually see in the novels. Instead of having some traumatic past to justify his horrific behavior, we see a deeper side to a character who has quite literally dug his own holes and is dealing with the emotional fallout as a result. Rosie is relatable in many ways. What stood out most for me was her story, detailing the struggles women face with unwanted and unwarranted advances from a guy who just won’t take no as an answer.
Garrett, our Gaston, was well written and just the right amount of privileged cringe. Quinn and Annie were the perfect best friends for Rosie, wonderful in a multitude of unique ways. While I wasn’t in love with the adult characters, they were both extremely likable. And, as with Poston’s prior novels, there are a few callbacks to characters from the previous novels, so keep an eye out! Plus, it’s chock full of movie and fan references from just about any fandom you can think of. There was even one poking fun at Disney buying everything!
Bookish and the Beast is set for a publication date of June 16th.
If this book hasn’t been on your radar up until now, I would definitely suggest putting it on your TBR. A wonderful retelling that is definitely now on my list of favorites, Bookish and the Beast is a book that’ll stick with you. Also, look out for the Tom Holland reference! I giggled so much!