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Book Review For Teens: Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen

TEEN REVIEW | By Cory Kleinman

Beastkeeper is the story of a girl whose family has been put under a curse and she, too, is in danger of falling victim to it. A strange tale of family, jealousy, and love, Cat Hellisen’s novel follows the young, charming heroine Sarah as she journeys into the wild woods.

Sarah has always liked the woods, and after her mother left, it was the place where she found refuge. As Sarah discovers the motivations behind her mother’s sudden departure, she notices odd changes in her father’s behavior—he’s becoming more distant and involved in his work, and he now likes raw meat on his sandwiches. Could it be that Dad has succumbed to the curse and is becoming a beast?

This courageous and spirited teenager is forced to confront the difficult emotions of love and fear as she, too, faces the possibility of becoming a beast and losing her humanity.

After Sarah’s mom walks out, abandoning her husband and child, Sarah’s father drops her off with her grandmother and grandfather. Immediately, Sarah notices that her grandfather is already a beast, complete with fur and horns. While living with her grandmother, Sarah learns more about the curse as she discovers the tangled web of jealousy that her grandmother spun years before.

Sarah struggles to comprehend her feelings for the strange, handsome boy in the woods. He helps her on her quest to reunite her crazy, magical family and to break the curse which threatens to destroy her and all members of her family. When she meets the snow-white raven who drops hints about her grandparents’ mysterious past, Sarah’s curiosity is piqued and she goes out looking for adventure and a solution to the curse.

Beastkeeper is a thrilling novel and exciting to read despite it sometimes being complex and rushed in certain places. I’d definitely recommend it.

Cory is a junior at Wakefield School in The Plains, Virginia.

PARENT REVIEW | By Jeff Kleinman

What would it be like to be affected by a family curse? There you are, perfectly innocent, going to school and worrying about biology or whether you should eat that chocolate-covered doughnut. Then all of a sudden, through absolutely no fault of your own, you find that your whole family is cursed. Every family member has been turned into a huge, mindless, unnamable beast, and you will too as soon as you fall in love. This is exactly what Sarah struggles with in Cat Hellisen’s Beastkeeper.

The novel is a fun, easy read, with a likeable protagonist. Sarah’s a feisty, cool 13-year-old who often seems and acts much wiser than her peers. When her mother suddenly and unaccountably leaves her and her father, she’s devastated but immediately learns to cope. Then her father starts acting more and more oddly: eating sandwiches with a fat layer of raw meat. He’s turning into a monster.

Before the transformation is complete, however, he drops Sarah off for safekeeping at her grandparents’ home—although her father never told her that his parents were alive. Maybe this wasn’t the best place to protect her, though: her grandmother lives alone with a talking, white raven. Her grandfather, fully and finally transformed into a beast, is locked in a shed out back. Soon her father is gone, and it’s up to Sarah to unravel what’s going on.

She quickly becomes aware of the curse—jealous jilted lovers throwing magical scourges at each other. Falling in love, Sarah learns, will doom her. She’ll end up like her father, now a monster, roaming the forest and preying on the locals. When a mysterious handsome boy named Alan tries to help Sarah, she’s in even more dire straits, now one step closer to falling in love—and turning into a beast herself.

Fast-paced and charming, Beastkeeper is an effortless novel to devour and enjoy. Despite the sometimes confusing backstory, slightly muddled plot —and an ending that felt a bit forced and rushed —this is definitely a novel worth reading. I sure hope the author is working on the sequel.

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