A psychologically intense fantasy. Van Arsdale sets up her dominoes so that when the first is finally knocked over, subsequent events cascade the story forward in a rush of energy to the final showdown.
Horn Book Magazine


Cover design by Sonia Chaghatzbanian. Photo by Sarah Ann Loreth.
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Alys was seven the first time she saw the soul eaters. Twin sisters, they radiated an energy that excited Alys. Through them she felt the wildness of the forest, and The Beast within it. Too late, she learned of their power to destroy.

By the time she is fifteen, Alys knows too much about both the lure and the danger of the soul eaters. She lives in a world of adults who are terrified of their power, who cower behind high walls and grim rules. Fear of the soul eaters—and of The Beast—rules the villagers’ lives. Even more, they fear the ways in which The Beast may lurk among them—and within a girl like Alys.

Alys fears the same thing, and she has good reason. She has a connection to the soul eaters, and to The Beast. And she hides a truth about herself that she can reveal to no one, for fear she will be called a witch. As the threat posed by the soul eaters grows, Alys must undertake a journey through the wild danger of the forest. But the greatest danger is not outside her. Alys’s secret about who—and what—she is terrifies her most of all. And in order to save her world, she must also risk losing herself.

The Beast Is an Animal is an eerie, compelling, wholly original tale of far-flung villages, dark woods, and creatures that hunt in the night. It’s also a deeply human story about a girl finding her way in a world that is ugly and beautiful, good and bad—and discovering the same within herself.


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Atmospheric and immersive, van Arsdale’s eerie fantasy…builds toward a poignant and satisfying conclusion.
Publishers Weekly
This is a spooky, gorgeously dark fairy tale that lures you deeper and deeper in, like you’re chasing something through its pages. A lot of YA novels are about a girl lost in the forest of her teenage years, and struggling to understand her heart. This one has the courage to suggest that there may be some scary things lurking in there. THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL is a surprising, highly original work—much more like Hawthorne than a Disney-fied retelling of some classic fairy tale. Van Arsdale’s sentences are elegant and timeless, and her novel gets weirder and more visceral as it goes. You’re going to want to follow Alys into the woods.
— Jeff Giles, author of The Edge of Everything
A slow burn story with a slightly folklike feel. . .the few pages from the sisters’ perspective ratchet up the suspense to an almost unbearable level. The unsettling actions of the Puritan-like Defaiders and the chilling legend around The Beast combine to create a truly horrifying tale of revenge, murder, and evil.
— Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB)
The mix of magic, folklore, and human struggle will appeal to a variety of readers. It explores the nuance of humanity, while also being about the things that go bump in the night.
— School Library Connection
In a dark, atmospheric fantasy debut, one young woman (like so many adolescents) finds her greatest enemy is the monster within. Achingly poetic. A good choice for readers with Gothic inclinations.
Kirkus Reviews
With a fast-moving plot, atmospheric flashbacks, and the lyrics of a children’s song about the dangers of The Beast used to excellent effect, this is a swift and compelling read.
Dark and gritty, magical and captivating, THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL will simultaneously thrill you, excite you, and most important, SCARE THE HELL OUT OF YOU (I’m here for this last part, and I hope you are too).
Using simple but evocative language, van Arsdale weaves a dark fairy tale featuring a heroine and a beast who are neither as simply good or as simply evil as such characters in these stories often are. This is, ultimately, a story about stories and how the tales we tell about ourselves and others shape who we and they become.
— Billie Bloebaum, Third Street Books
THE BEAST IS AN ANIMAL is creepy, unsettling, and suspenseful in the best way.
— Sami Thomason, Square Books, Oxford, MS