In the long standing feud between Love and Death, who will win?
Belle is caught in the middle of these two elemental forces as they play a deadly game to answer this very question. Lost In A Book, written by New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Donnelly, is an innovative twist on a story nearly the whole world knows. She has taken the Disney animated classic film Beauty and the Beast and weaved within its narrative her own story. With a deft hand, Jennifer has found a way to integrate something completely original into a very familiar story. And while doing that, she has also expanded upon the original as well, taking classic scenes in the film and adding depth and emotion to them to better understand the different characters’ perspectives.
Title: Lost In A Book
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Age: 10-14 (or any Beauty and the Beast fan)
Publisher: Disney Press (DPW)
Genre: Young adult fiction
The original story begins with Love and Death, personified as sisters who love to wager against each other. They play chess together and as Love notes, Death HATES to lose. They begin talking about Belle and the Beast and they place a wager on their relationship – Love choosing to believe that Belle will break the curse and Death believing that she won’t. They decide to wager three million gold coins on the outcome, which made me wonder, why do they have coins at all? Alas, we never find out. But the story revolves around the two sisters trying to manipulate events inside the pages of an enchanted book which brings Belle intermittently into the realm of Nevermore.
Nevermore literally exists inside the pages of a book. In that magical realm, Belle finds so many wonderful things she literally becomes “lost in a book.” But something is not quite right. Still Belle is so entranced by what she sees she gleefully makes light of some of the other more disturbing questions she comes across while traveling back and forth to Nevermore. How Belle comes to face her own reality and embrace it instead of escaping from it is the double entendre of the title. Does Belle both figuratively AND literally get lost in a book, or is she able to find hope in her circumstances within the walls of the Beast’s castle?
Meanwhile, Donnelly adds nice touches to the animated classic’s main story. She gives us glimpses into the budding relationship between Belle and the Beast. She shows us how difficult and how long it took to move from complete strangers to the cusp of being friends. And she adds depth to Belle’s relationship with the other inhabitants of the castle and how they slowly become her true friends. All the while, if you’re familiar with the film, you can find yourself marking off the passage of time, anticipating what’s to come.
Admittedly, there were times I was frustrated with the book. The pacing in the middle seemed to drag on a bit as Belle frustratingly couldn’t see the deception that was happening around her. And certain questions kept nagging at me like why no one ever went to check on Belle when she was gone for hours at a time. And how could common household objects do some of the things they did? When you see it on the screen, you just go with the flow, but in the details of a book you have more time to ponder those things. Overall, the book was adeptly written and I thoroughly enjoyed Jennifer’s skills as a writer. She crafted a completely original story and fit it within the confines of another.
What surprised me was the pace in the last third of the book. I ripped through those pages, not able to put the book down as Belle became aware of what was truly going on in Nevermore. The action picked up and Donnelly did a masterful job of making the threat to Belle seem real – and a bit scary to be honest. The ride ended as anticipated with us being set back inside the story we know and love, but with us being a lot wiser and more fulfilled for the journey. It was like being on the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland. Once you start heading down the mountain, the ride becomes fast and thrilling, but when you get back to the station everything is right with the world. So if you like a bit of a thrill ride in your reading or you just love the Disney animated classic (or even the new live action version), you’ll enjoy this book. It’s definitely worth adding to your own library.
- Read our review of the live action version of the film
- Find out even more about the making of both the animated film and the live action version in Tale As Old As Time