Review: Beastkeeper (Hellisen)

AUTHOR: Cat Hellisen
SERIES: none
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Co.
ISBN: 9780805099805
PAGES: 208
SOURCE: NetGalley
GENRE: fairy tales, magical realism, low fantasy
SETTING: present day, nondescript suburban town, magical forest, castle
GIVE IT TO: MS, upper-ES

SUMMARY: Spin-off of “Beauty and the Beast.” Twelve-year old Sarah’s mother leaves her father. As the months pass, Sarah’s father grows more beastlike every day until one day, he takes Sarah to live in an old castle with a grandmother she’s never met.

WHAT I LIKED: Beautiful writing! Cat Hellisen has some serious writing talent. Beastkeeper is a creative play on “Beauty and the Beast” with richly-imagined descriptions of lush forests, ancient, crumbling castles, and rancid-smelling beasts who were once human. Besides Sarah, who is just beginning to piece things together, every other character in the book is hiding something important. They have ulterior motives and cannot always be trusted. I loved Sarah and her determination to figure out what is going on. Considering how pretty much everyone she’s ever known has lied to her, Sarah’s kind and merciful actions really say a lot about her character.

There’s a boy Sarah meets in the woods near her suburban home. His name is Alan, and he plays a huge part in the story. I love how he is not the typical gorgeous prince you would see in a fairy tale spin-off. Alan is frequently unkempt, dirty, and without shoes. He appears to be homeless and parent-less. He’s wild and mysterious and may or may not be trustworthy. I adored Alan! He reminded me of Huck Finn or maybe Puck.

The creepiness. This is great for readers who like creepy books like Coraline, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, and Doll Bones.

The unique ending! I did not predict any of it. No sequel is planned (probably for the best), but I would love to read about what happens next.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: I wish Sarah were a little older–maybe 16 or 17–and that there were a bit more romance. There is a little bit of a romance, but with Sarah being only twelve years old, it’s only a very light sprinkling.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Beautifully-written and incredibly unique. This is one of my early favorites for 2015.

STATUS IN MY LIBRARY: I’ll be getting this one. It’s excellent for upper-ES and MS libraries. Though the target audience is middle grades, I think this has mass appeal for high schoolers and even adults. It reads like a modern classic and reminds me of Tuck Everlasting.

READALIKES: The Darkest Part of the Forest (Black); Tuck Everlasting (Babbitt); Coraline (Gaiman)


  • Overall: 5/5
  • Creativity: 5/5
  • Characters: 5/5
  • Engrossing: 4/5–a few slow moments
  • Writing: 5/5
  • Appeal to teens: 5/5–easy to booktalk
  • Appropriate length to tell the story: 5/5


  • Language: none
  • Sexuality: none
  • Violence: mild; beasts kill wild animals for food; witches; curses
  • Drugs/Alcohol: very mild; possible poisoning
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