Release Date: May 22nd 2012
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Buy It: Book Depository
Every summer the trucks roll in, bringing the carnival and its infinite possibilities to town. This year Tessa and her younger sister Lulu are un-chaperoned and want to be first in line to experience the rides, the food . . . and the boys. Except this summer, jealousy will invade their relationship for the first time, setting in motion a course of events that can only end in tragedy, putting everyone's love and friendship to the test.
This is a pretty strange book, and it took me awhile to get used to– probably like three quarters of it's short, less than 200 pages– but at the end everything came together, two storylines: one in words, one in graphic novel form, and together they combined to make for a strong and emotionally compelling story.
I really felt like Castellucci, who wrote the text, captured the feeling of sisterhood and the complexities of that relationship extremely well. Lulu and Tessa have always been really close, and even if Lulu sometimes gets on her sister's nerves, Tessa loves her. But then a fateful moment at a carnival leads to Lulu beginning a relationship with Tessa's crush, the boy she wanted more than anything... and where does that leave the two of them as sisters? The jealousy that Tessa felt was so real it was painful, and even when she does manage to find a boy of her own, it does little to heal the damage that has already been done. The Year of the Beasts captures Tessa's inner conflict, her mix of happiness and anger, in an incredibly authentic and believable way.
Powell's drawings are dark and beautiful, even if I found their connection to what I thought was the "real" story to be very confusing at first. When I realized how things worked, and went back and looked at them again, I was even more impressed. Ultimately, The Year of the Beasts isn't a book that instantly blew me away, it was far more subtle in its power, but when I was finished the story I was left with a lasting and emotional image of sisterhood both from Castellucci's words and Powell's images.