November 30, 2006

The Wildness Inside

This book is a 2006 Cybil Award Nominee for YA Fiction.

Singer/songwriter Ally Kennen took a detour from music to write a novel that simply roars with life. Beast is a subtle thriller, weighing the darkness of what lies beneath society's polite veneer against the need the reality of what and who we sometimes are inside.

The novel begins with a list of the horrors protagonist Stephen has done. Admittedly, he's not a great kid. He's... done stuff. Bad stuff. And pretty soon he's pretty sure he'll be able to add murder to his list of petty theft and grand larceny. Stephen's been in foster care for ages. His Mom's messed up and his Dad... wow, his Dad's a complete drunken nutter. Maybe. Sometimes he's violent. Sometimes he's giving. And once, he gave Stephen something... something that is threatening to pull his life up by the roots.

It's out there, and it's hungry. It's the Beast that needs feeding. And Stephen is bound to feed it, bound to care for it. If not, that rusty little cage... won't hold him back for long.

Nobody gets it. Stephen's foster parents try, but they're just as wary as him as if he were the beast himself. And Carol, his foster sister is up to no good. She's a conniver, and she just uses her beauty to play the world like a fiddle. Only Robert, his foster brother, cares about him, and that's almost worse. Robert reminds Stephen too much of Selby, the brother he worshipped and lost. And then, when the secret is out, Stephen finds he has to trust somebody. When that somebody turns out to be Carol, they both take risks to trust each other, and to do what's best without doing too much damage - they hope.

The Beast is real, yet the Beast is also a metaphor for Stephen's inner life. Will he burst out of control and do damage? Or will he be cornered, captured, and subdued? Will it all be for his own good? A quick, suspensful novel about survival, loss, trust and self-control.

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