A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The Year of the Beasts presents a realistic portrayal of the kinds of behavior that teens indulge in when they first begin to date. The comics portions of the book employ archetypes from Greek mythology (Medusa, the Minotaur, a centaur and a siren/mermaid) to comment on the main action.
Although there's a large amount of sadness in The Year of the Beasts, the book ends on a hopeful note and stresses the importance of making the most of the time we have with the people we care about.
Positive Role Models
For much of The Year of the Beasts, Tessa is confused about how she should feel about her sister Lulu's relationship with Charlie the football star and about her own boyfriend, the withdrawn, elusive Jasper. She learns a harsh lesson, and by the end of the book she understands that she must be gentler with those who offer their love and friendship to her.
Violence & Scariness
In the illustrated portions of The Year of the Beasts, the Medusa character inadvertently turns her parents, teachers, and classmates to stone with her snaky gaze. In the prose portions, a swimming accident has dire physical and emotional consequences for all concerned.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The characters in The Year of the Beasts are all exploring their sexual identities and learning what it means to be "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." There's much talk and depiction of holding hands, kissing, and making out, but the level of physical intimacy doesn't rise much above that. There's a reference to a couple lying "half-naked" in each other's arms, but the exact nature of this near-nudity isn't specified.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The teen characters in The Year of the Beasts note that some adults drink alcohol at a neighborhood party and become less vigilant regarding the teens' behavior. The teens themselves don't drink alcohol. It's rumored that one of the boys smokes marijuana, but this behavior isn't depicted. Antidepressants are prescribed for one character in the wake of a tragedy.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Year of the Beasts mixes sections of prose and comics to tell complementary tales of romantic exploration and loss. The narrative moves inexorably toward tragedy, but the emotional pain involved isn't gratuitous and ultimately leads to an understanding of kindness and forbearance. There's some kissing and making out, a swimming accident, and, in the comics section, the Medusa character inadvertently turns her parents, teachers, and classmates to stone with her snaky gaze.
Is It Any Good?
The Year of the Beasts is a tender, affecting, and hard-hitting tale of teen romance and jealousy. Cecil Castellucci ably captures the giddiness and angst of first love, and her depiction of the interplay between two competing sisters and their group of friends always feels psychologically honest. Nate Powell's illustrated sections comment obliquely on the prose chapters, until everything coalesces in one devastating incident at the book's climax. The Year of the Beasts might upset some sensitive readers, but it earns its emotional ending.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.