Beau and Bett

Amberjack. Jul. 2019. 224p. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781948705448.
Gr 8 Up–When Beau LeFrancois’s mom stops her car to pick an avocado for her son, she isn’t worried about trespassing on the Diaz Ranch. But when she begins to drive away and crashes her uninsured car into Bettina Diaz’s Range Rover, her son ends up at the ranch to bargain with Mr. Diaz and try to find a way to pay for the damage. To settle the debt, on weekends Beau begins working on the ranch, where he starts to develop a cautious friendship with Bettina, whose school nickname of “Beast” strikes Beau as unnecessarily harsh. The more time the two spend together, the more complicated things become: Beau feels like the wealthy rancher’s daughter would never understand the way he and his family live, especially now that his father is injured and out of work, but he can’t fight the growing respect and friendship he feels for Bettina. What starts out as a gender-swapped yet distinctly familiar retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” becomes a contemporary story that touches on issues of harassment and the #MeToo movement. Beau is a thoughtful narrator, and the novel is an engaging read. The echoes of the source material are solidly woven throughout the narrative, and Berla pulls off a fairy-tale adaptation that stands on its own without magic, even managing to keep the dire condition of the “beast” that ultimately helps this beauty see his own heart.
VERDICT Purchase where fairy-tale retellings are popular

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