Warning: This review contains mild spoilers.
Even though she gets along with the Lumiere and Chip and the rest of the housewares, and even though she’s warming up to the Beast, Belle wants to escape the castle—and then the goddess of Death gives her an opportunity to do just that. Between her moments of escapism, we get interactions between her and the Beast and bonus scenes that could have been in the movie. Score!
I love Beauty and the Beast. I saw it on Broadway when I was 10, and I’ve listened to the musical soundtrack hundreds of times. When I first saw the trailer before Fantastic Beasts, I literally started crying. And I loved the new movie.
But I also recognize the flawed messages in the BATB story. For example, it explores bestiality, and it implies that kidnapping is okay as long as you’re rich enough to give a girl a library. Lost in a Book softens both of those flaws. Otto, a love-crazed automaton, emphasizes the power of platonic love, suggesting that Belle’s final “I love you” might have not necessarily be romantic—or that it’s at least asexual. There’s also a moment where Belle realizes that the Beast cares about her specifically, and her affection for him deepens in a moment of character revelation rather than materialism or horror.
I have two complaints, one of which the author probably couldn’t have avoided. Belle is supposed to be supremely innocent, with “a heart of gold.” Although Jennifer Donnelly gives her flawed moments—she fibs, especially about Nevermore—but she also uses “Crumbs!” as a curse word and has other lines that make her seem younger than she’s supposed to be. I’m sure this is meant to open the book up to middle grade and even younger audiences, but it was a little off-putting for me.
My other, more serious complaint is that the book contains an assisted suicide of sorts, and Belle is the one to assist. I appreciate the author trying to throw in some dark twists, but as a mental health advocate, I cringed. It’s not a message I can support.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars.