*I received a free ARC of this novel, with thanks to the author, Egmont Books and NetGalley. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: The most exciting new children’s book of 2020 and a modern classic in the making. The Beast and the Bethany has all the classic macabre humour of Roald Dahl with the warmth and charm of Despicable Me, finished off with a gleeful bite of Little Shop of Horrors! This book should be on every little monster’s birthday and Christmas list.
Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511-year-old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion, who he feeds all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful. But the beast grows ever greedier, and soon only a nice, juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan . . .
What a brilliant book, for children and adults alike!
The Beast and the Bethany follows a longstanding fairytale tradition of being quite dark and utterly gruesome, with some touching moments and plenty of giggles too.
Our main characters are Ebenezer and Bethany, and both start the story as pretty unpleasant to be around. 511-year-old Ebenezer has become so obsessed with prolonging his time on this earth that he has forgotten to actually do anything with the time he has. He has everything he can think of, including his youth, but doesn’t really seem to be enjoying his good fortune. And right at the other end of the scale – although also not particularly enjoying life – is orphan Bethany, who spends her time bullying, pranking and generally making everyone around her as miserable as she can. They seem to deserve each other. But does either of them deserve to be eaten by the Beast that lives in Ebenezer’s attic?
I had heard this story described as a modern-day Roald Dahl book, and I was certainly not disappointed in this respect. Jack Meggitt-Phillips has tapped into the same gleeful revoltingness that Dahl mined, whilst also managing to sneak in the moral lessons and character development under the entertaining adventure. I was also reminded strongly of Despicable Me, Lemony Snicket and even a little bit of Annie. That is not to say that the story is derivative though; Meggitt-Phillips takes the ideas of orphans, rich unhappy men and monsters and spins them into a fresh and funny new fable of his own.
The story is set mainly in Ebenezer’s palatial mansion, but covers a lot more ground morally, encompassing exploration of love and loneliness, selfishness and second chances, and what things are really important in life. And, of course, whether it is every ethically acceptable to feed your monster at the expense of other’s feelings, pets and/or actual lives.
I will definitely be purchasing copies of this book for all the middle-graders I know, but confess that I will be adding this to my own personal library as well, and can’t wait to see what comes next from this author. There’s no age limit on a fantastic story!
Ebenezer Tweezer didn’t even have to worry about death. At the time this story begins, he was within a week of his 512th birthday, and yet, if you were to have bumped into him on the street, you would have thought him to be a young man – certainly no more than twenty years old.Jack Meggitt-Phillips, The Beast and the Bethany
You might have also thought that he was quite handsome. He had short golden hair, a small nose, a soft mouth and a pair of eyes which dazzled like diamonds in the moonlight. There was also a wonderful look of innocence about him.
Sadly, looks can be deceiving. You see, at the time when this story begins, Ebenezer was about to do a very bad thing.
You can follow Jack Meggitt-Phillips on Twitter.
The Beast and the Bethany is available on Amazon right now!