Book Review | Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly

30145677A girl locked in battle between Love and Death. A book with a paradise too good to be true. And a castle with a Beast and his servants. 

Belle is captive in the Beast’s castle. She’s befriended the inhabitants – Lumiere, Mrs Potts, Cogsworth, Chip – but she still feels lonely and trapped. Then Nevermore appears in the library. It’s a book full of possibilities – perhaps too many. As Belle begins to spend more and more time within the pages, cracks begin to appear, and she finds that she might have to choose between the Beast and the book. 

What a lovely book! Lost in a Book is actually titled: Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, and it’s a tie-in to the new film. I think there’s a few like this around at the moment, some called “Twisted Tales”, but thankfully this was not (that) twisted – I mean, apart from the whole Beauty and the Beast story as a whole… but that’s for another time! 

Jennifer Donnelly had obviously had an inside-look to the new live-action as she was writing this; a fact to which I am insanely jealous! (Seriously, doing this is, like, my dream.) A new character appears in the live action, called Cadenza – he is the piano, but he also featured in this novel. There were a few other aspects and as I more recently saw the live-action I pictured all the characters and heard all of their voices as these characters, not from the animation.

I did think that some of the writing and plot devices were quite simplistic, although I guess that children would be reading this. Beauty and the Beast isn’t really a kid’s tale anyway, but this has been marketed as a YA novel, so it does leave one wondering.

I also thought, as some other reviewers have said, that the ending was quite abrupt. The next bit is spoilers – simply highlight the text to see it. I wonder what happened to Death afterwards? The whole way through, it was all, “Death won’t give up!” And then… she did? I’m so confused as to what happened at the end, really; it seemed like the ending was a bit of a cop out. I wonder if in the book’s canon, once Belle is old, she’ll have a really horrible and painful death, which isn’t something I really want to think about.

I did love how Donnelly set up the story of Beauty and the Beast: with the personified characters of Love and Death arguing. It’s a really nice idea and puts a twist on the Enchantress who cursed the Beast and the castle in the first place. I wish that there had been more of Love throughout the novel, but Death was a great character.

However, I did find some of what was written in the book problematic. Love is described as having dark skin… but Death (they’re sisters, by the way) describes her as a “savage”, which really made me flinch. It did make me wary to read on in the book, and therefore has put some reservations on it for me. This was the only review I found on Goodreads that addressed this issue.

Another reason I’ve given this 3.5 is that I felt like some of the characters were a little flat. I sobbed when I saw the movie, but didn’t feel much at this book. I think it’s because I wasn’t ready at the time to read the book, and I’ve felt a bit disconnected, reading it over 1-2 weeks. I think that in the future if I re-read this I might enjoy it a little more!

Addressing all of the problematic issues, I would be hesitant in recommending this book, and I’m disappointed that Love was described in this particular way in a book that has been promoted by one of the biggest corporations in the world. Publishing, writing, and editing, have such a way to go.

TITLE: Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book
AUTHOR: Jennifer Donnelly
GENRE: MG/YA Fantasy/retelling
ISBN: 9781484780985
PERSONAL SOURCE: Bought from WHSmith
RATING: 3.5/5

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