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Book Review: She Is a Beast

SHE IS A BEAST by Christina Rosso is an illustrated collection of feminist fairy tales, including both reimaginings and original fairy tales. Check out what Felicia Nicole Hall has to say about this Apep Publications book.

“Book Review: She Is a Beast”

Reviewed by Felicia Nicole Hall

No damsels in distress—only strong women defeating beasts in this illustrated collection of feminist fairy tales

Some stories in this collection reimagine classic fairy tales like Cinderella and Rapunzel, while others are completely original; but they share a common theme—the women are the heroes this time.  In the original fairy tales that we grew up with, the princess is too-often the damsel in distress, the one who needs to be saved by the prince.

But in She is a Beast, we see our favorite childhood princesses with the strength and independence they deserve. We see them taking control of their relationships, choosing the paths that will best satisfy them, and defeating beasts with their own power. It’s a feminist’s dream come true.

There are so many stories and moments in this collection that ring true and bring us together. In the first fairy tale, “Killing the Beast,” the narrator describes being groped in a crowded pub; later on, she feels trapped in marriage and motherhood. Even through the filter of fantasy, these moments among many others are undeniably recognizable for women, setting the stage for our connection to come.

“It’s all about knowing who you’re above in the food chain. I was more clever than all of the men in the village put together. I would prove I was more clever than the Beast, too.” 

Rosso’s writing is something to admire. When I first picked up this book, I was worried that the changing protagonists would blend together, the voices too similar or feeling like a continuation of the same story. But Rosso is able to create unique characters each time through her ability to dip in and out of great voices and tones. I read this book straight through without pause, and after finishing, I was able to tell apart each protagonist and which singular feminist fairy tale she shared with us.

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the use of visual art and text throughout the collection. The classic font and drop caps combine with vibrant drawings to offer an illustrated and fully imagined world to venture through. These aspects really intensify the experience of reading a fairytale. I felt like a little kid again, reading Cinderella for the first time, but this time, I was the hero, not the prince who came to save me.

If there’s one thing that didn’t wow me, it’d be the pacing of the stories. I could have spent a bit more time with each one, slowing down the pace and leaving me with less questions. These characters are just too intriguing for me to leave them so quickly like this. But, hey, if the only thing that leaves me wanting is that I didn’t have the chance to read this book for longer, then I’d say we’ve got ourselves a really special book here.

Rosso does an amazing job of capturing the nostalgia of a fairytale with modern day feminist twists. I read it in one sitting, and I’ll definitely be jumping into it a second time. Due to some adult content, it may not be suited for young girls, but She is a Beast is a modern-day woman’s ideal collection of fairytales—the ones where we’ll be the heroes.

Publisher: Apep Publications

Saddle-stitched: 56 pages

ISBN: 978-1-7346983-0-5

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