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How to Be Eaten

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This darkly funny and provocative novel reimagines classic fairy tale characters as modern women in a support group for trauma.

In present-day New York City, five women meet in a basement support group to process their traumas. Bernice grapples with the fallout of dating a psychopathic, blue-bearded billionaire. Ruby, once devoured by a wolf, now wears him as a coat. Gretel questions her memory of being held captive in a house made of candy. Ashlee, the winner of a Bachelor-esque dating show, wonders if she really got her promised fairy tale ending. And Raina's love story will shock them all.

Though the women start out wary of one another, judging each other’s stories, gradually they begin to realize that they may have more in common than they supposed . . . What really brought them here? What secrets will they reveal? And is it too late for them to rescue each other?

Dark, edgy, and wickedly funny, this debut for readers of Carmen Maria Machado, Kristen Arnett, and Kelly Link takes our coziest, most beloved childhood stories, exposes them as anti-feminist nightmares, and transforms them into a new kind of myth for grown-up women.

291 pages, Hardcover

First published May 31, 2022

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About the author

Maria Adelmann

2 books162 followers
Maria Adelmann’s work has been published by Tin House, n+1, The Threepenny Review, Indiana Review, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, Lit Hub, Electric Literature, and others. She has been awarded prizes by the Baker Artist Awards and the Maryland State Arts Council, and her work has been selected as a Distinguished Story in The Best American Short Stories. She has an MFA in fiction from The University of Virginia. She enjoys learning complicated new crafts and letting personal projects take over her life. A longtime resident of Baltimore, Adelmann recently ended up in Copenhagen after getting stuck there during the pandemic.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,147 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
May 31, 2022

Maybe everyone has a story, but not everyone was interviewed by Barbara Walters at age twelve, cross-legged on a couch in a red dress and Mary Janes, skin still red from stomach acid, getting chastised for her wantonness. Not everyone was in a Western 45 Gun Company handgun ad just to pay the hospital bills. Not that I was the one who shot him. Not everyone is the fictionalized star of pedo-erotic-true-crime fan fiction and actual porn, posted on the deep corners of the internet, some version of me wandering around a subdivision in pigtails naked, save for a red-hooded cape.

this was a three-star-read for me, but it's a high three stars. not to be confused with three high stars:

i love fairy tale retellings, especially when familiar stories are transplanted into contemporary times, forcing the modern reader to re-examine the messages we've been passing down unthinkingly through the generations, many of which are, as they say, problematic, even in their softened, disneyfied forms. lots of happy endings for women kissed sans active consent by powerful men whilst deeply comatose, ladies choosing to relinquish their power of speech to be with a man, women punished for their curiosity, for running late, for talking to strangers—fairy tales are not typically great for females.

i'm not sure if angela carter was the first, but she was certainly one of the pioneers in the "feminist reclamation of fairy tales" genre, which somehow, despite a finite pool of source material from which to draw, is still thriving as authors find inventive ways to build new stories on the canon's bones.

the creative hook to this one is centered around a therapy group for women who had once upon a time lived through a variation of a familiar fairy-tale scenario; girls who grew up to become women deeply scarred by their traumatic experiences, which are reclassed here largely as true crime stories: a woman married to a blue-bearded billionaire serial killer, a girl who saved herself and her brother by murdering the woman who kidnapped them, a girl seduced by a predator on her way to visit her grandmother.

because if anyone's gonna need some therapy, it'll be someone who was swallowed up (if only temporarily) by a killer masquerading as a trusted relative. and the formerly little red ruby's...not doing so well. her riding hood(ie) story is reshaped as an encounter with a sexual predator, flattered and manipulated by a wolfish creature in an interaction that reminded me very much of the highly uncomfortable must-read graphic novel Panther. here, we see her grown up to become a wayward substance-abusing cutter; sarcastic, self-destructive and self-effacing—always sweaty, always hungry, wearing a truly grotesque fur coat made of the wolf who consumed her and drawn to debasing casual sex with men drawn to her damage.

Emil and I have this on-again, off-again storage-closet romance. "Romance" is a strong word for it. He sometimes nonexclusively jams his junk down my throat over lunch breaks until I can't breathe.

Emil has the personality of a drunken pirate trying to clean up his act. For three weeks out of each month, he treats me like a siren trying to shipwreck him. When he's exhausted himself from abstaining, he'll reappear with that hungry, wanting look. Later, he'll pawn it off as a moment of weakness that was my fault, saying things like "Well, when you wear that dress" or "You finally washed your hair." We keep doing it, just like that, in a way that's annoyingly unstoppable, like how you find yourself singing along to a crappy pop song on the radio that you unfortunately know by heart.

ruby is just one of the women assembled into this group by the blandly inoffensive will—a therapist with an ulterior motive. well, two ulterior motives, and one icky, sticky secret. his (stated) objective is to provide a safe place for these women to share their experiences with others like them; survivors of unusual and horrific circumstances whose details were salaciously media-twisted, their lives raked over the coals of public opinion and spoiler alert—they are a judgy bunch.

"To be honest, I thought Gretel, of all people, would get it," says Ruby. "We both escaped being eaten for lunch, just to have the media eat us for dinner."

the women come to the group for their own personal reasons and hounded by their own personal demons, but will's sales-pitch-goal for them is empowerment—taking back their stories from the spotlight of their abusers and the media’s framing of them as complicit in their own victimhood, or presenting reductive versions of themselves defined solely by their trauma, their rescue, their proximity to real-world horror.

so, these are revisionist fairytales of women whose experiences were already revised by scandal-hungry media; their lives exploited for the titillation of viewers, news cycles splaying out their worst days before abandoning them, rapidly moving on to the next bleeding story without pausing to consider what happens to these individuals afterwards; the real people behind the true crime stories, the "where are they now?" survivors carrying on living after their experiences have been scrutinized and dissected into unrecognizable form: Sensational or sanitized, there's no middle ground.

this book is the middle ground.

the best backstories here are ruby's and bernice's, who is surrounded by the chattering voices of her blue-bearded husband's former lovers, now trapped in the objects he made from their bodies, finding herself guilty by association; lumped into the crimes she had no idea he had committed...until she did.

In my new neighborhood bodega, the cashier stared, then looked over near the window. I followed his eyes to a display of newspapers and tabloids. I picked up a paper where an op-ed headline read WHEN CURIOSITY KILLS, as if opening the door had been the real deathblow. A tabloid had a photo of me on the cover, on the day of the funeral, wearing a dark navy dress, almost smirking under a rainbow umbrella. TRUE BLUE! The headline shouted in bold lettering. The subheading: BLUEBEARD'S GIRLFRIEND STANDS BY HER MAN.

I was always a reference point for someone else. I was born into the last name of a father I hardly knew, in school I was always my sister's little sister, in the mansion Andrea had called me Taylor, and now I was the nameless possessive of some stupidly named serial killer.

"Wearing navy to the funeral," said one apparent expert in an unnamed field," suggests that she's still aligning herself with Bluebeard." They write about me as if I'd attended the funeral of a mistress I was complicit in murdering. They compared me to the smiling wives of cheating politicians and the adoring fans of death-row inmates.

i also enjoyed ashlee's story, an outlier in that she's not attached to a specific fairytale, but is kind of catch-all for every "happily ever after" princess story—the winner of a Bachelor-style reality dating show called The One, who got her prince but was emphatically not a fan favorite.

hers is a wonderfully caustic behind-the-scenes look at reality show production—the manipulation and grooming and sneaky editing. i have never seen The Bachelor because i am a monster who hates love, but the whole grueling process, the women blindfolded, sequestered, transported to undisclosed locations like prisoners of war was fascinating and also horrifying. and that "prince" was certainly no prize.

gretel's story was the weakest of the bunch and for whatever reason adelmann decided to be very cagey about disclosing raina's identity until the Big Reveal, so i'll respect that choice, but overall, while i enjoyed the witty observations and commentary, the parts didn't cohere into a satisfying whole.

the premise and the individual stories were great, but it needed more connective tissue to make the big-picture story work; to make this operate as a novel instead of a loosely-bound story collection. my issue isn't with the writing, it's with the construction. she's got a strong concept, it's funny and there are some sharp insights, but it mostly just scratches the surface of its themes of gendered power structures, identity, and the squickiness of true crime as entertainment without developing it into anything more than raised questions.

YMMV, of course, and my inability to be over-the-moon-wowed by this is probably because i've pretty recently read These Women and Notes on an Execution, where the whole "taking the narrative away from the serial killer to focus on the lives of his victims/survivors/women surrounding his story" offered much more thorough explorations of the theme, and More Than You'll Ever Know did an excellent job examining our obsession with true crime in general.

as far as this one goes: great cover, great moments, good book.



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Profile Image for Mimi.
103 reviews25 followers
July 28, 2023
3.5 stars

In this retelling of classic fairy tales, five women seek group therapy in a modern setting.

I loved the premise and some of the women's stories, others not so much. It was hard to connect with five unrelated characters over such a short time span. The book also couldn't decide on whether to include supernatural elements or not, so some stories did and others were rooted firmly in realism, which was jarring.
The whole thing felt disconnected and more like a collection of short stories than a novel.
Profile Image for Maja  - BibliophiliaDK ✨.
1,097 reviews675 followers
June 14, 2022

Based solely on the blurp, I had high expectations for this book. And I was certainly not let down. This was interesting, innovative, entertaining, spooky, fascinating and mysterious. I was completely sold on the premise right from the start - "fairy tale" heroines going to therapy to deal with the sh*t that happened to them? Genius! It had plot, it had twists, it had intertextuality and it had riveting characters.

❤️ What I Loved ❤️

After the HEA: What happens to fairy tale characters after the story ends? Is it just 'happily ever after' as the stories want us to believe? Or are there consequences to deal with after being eaten by a wolf, nearly eaten by a witch or almost killed by a serial killer? That is the theme of this book. And it was brilliant! I was invested right from the beginning.

Retelling: I always love a good retelling. And this was definitely good. It takes place in modern times and manages to retain the magic even with a modern setting. Each story was recognisable and yet new in the very best way. It gave me a sense of mystery the whole way through, because even though I thought I knew what was going to happen, I never really knew.

Plot: While each of the five women recounts the story that made her famous, there is also another plot unfolding behind the scenes. It's filled with mystery and intrigue and while I was quick to guess the twist at the end, it still held me captive up until the great reveal.

Characters: The five women were each brilliant in their own way. I loved how they each had a distinct voice, that came through loud and clear. I really liked seeing them interacting with one another and slowly opening up about their traumas.

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Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,254 followers
July 16, 2022
4.5 stars

I loved reading this: a fun, funny, and thoughtful book about trauma, feminism and economic status, related through a support group for women who have experienced a fairy tale in the modern day. The characters come to life through pitch-perfect dialogue and detail, and the story is compelling fun but has deeper meaning too. I haven’t read anything quite like it and would love to read more by this author. Note that this is more a contemporary story with magic realism elements than a typical fantasy, so may appeal to a slightly different audience.

The frame story is in the support group meetings, and watching these very different and well-realized characters bounce off each other is a blast, but each gets a section to tell her story, so I’ll discuss in order of appearance:

Bernice is just out of an awful experience dating Bluebeard, and worse, she’s now being haunted by the chorus of his dead girlfriends. There’s a sense in which Bernice has to go first because she’s the dull one of the bunch—you wouldn’t be anticipating her story otherwise—but she has a dramatic tale, and turns out to be an endearing character because she is so earnest about recovery and cares about other women. I appreciate the way her story gives voice to victims often dismissed in media, like the Hooters waitress, and the recasting of Bluebeard as a tech entrepreneur with a chip on his shoulder about women is entertaining and incisive.

Ruby is probably my favorite for her outsized personality: she’s a walking disaster, always two steps from homelessness due to her own trauma-related bad decisions, but she’s also hilarious and gets all the best lines. Usually in fantasy I’m annoyed by the character who can’t keep their mouth shut, but Ruby is exactly the kind of person who can’t in real life, and a support group is a place where that behavior is believable, so instead of rolling my eyes as I so often do, I loved the way she voices what we’re all thinking. Ruby’s story is Little Red Riding Hood, but the book focuses less on the details of this childhood incident—which in this telling is so clearly a metaphor for child sexual abuse that I halfway wonder if that’s what really happened, even though she literally wears the wolfskin coat everywhere and it’s the cause of half her problems. But the focus is on how the trauma has thrown her life off-course, so that as an adult she’s getting fired from customer service jobs and having terrible hookups. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a portrayal of lasting trauma that felt so real and at the same time so funny.

Ashlee is another big personality, and she’s a bit of a caricature of a modern social-media-obsessed young person (being the youngest of the group at 22). She’s recently off a reality TV show, where while trying to “win” she found herself manipulated in ways that destroyed her real life. I’m not sure the comparison between reality TV as a modern fairy tale, and the violence of actual fairy tales, entirely works, but the boldness of the comparison makes it interesting and I did enjoy the behind-the-scenes viewpoint—much like the scripted show UnREAL from a contestant’s perspective. There’s definitely a comparison there between the Bluebeard women and the reality TV show women, and Ashlee makes an entertaining addition to the mix. Some good commentary here on how chasing arbitrary external measures of success is a recipe for misery (though Ashlee’s still on the way to figuring that out herself).

Gretel is an interesting one, whose tale I was eager to hear because she is so closed-off, hardly participating in conversations at all. Naturally, there’s some very modern commentary on poverty in the Hansel & Gretel tale, but Adelmann also does some really interesting things with this one: examining the complications of memory, as the siblings remember their childhood experiences wildly differently—Gretel’s memories are horrific while Hansel’s are pretty benign. And health care—she’s had dental problems and issues with eating ever since. And again, this story is far more about the trauma’s lasting effects on relationships than on the events themselves.

Raina, finally, is also interesting for her secrets: although I’m not sure why Adelmann hides the ball on her fairy tale, she does and so I won’t spoil it here. Raina is an endearing character because she’s genuinely mature, empathetic, and not easily rattled or upset. In her 40s, she’s the oldest of the group and a mother, and struggling with something that happened in early adulthood. Her story probably makes the least sense to me, magic realism aside , but it’s an interesting take on the fairy tale that provides a lot of social commentary.

There’s a plotline dealing with the support group itself too, of course, with the ways the women come to support each other and with some fishy business around the facilitator (if the ground rules at the beginning seem off to you, I can only say, keep reading). The setup means that this isn’t an action-oriented story, you more or less know how it’ll turn out, but while I didn’t love everything about the ending , I did find it satisfying overall.

Obviously I enjoyed this book a lot. Its commentary on issues women face in fairy tales and modern society isn’t really new, but in mixing that with a complex portrayal of trauma, and with the reality of the way economic precariousness pushes people into these situations or results from them, I found it to have plenty worthwhile to say. Plus, it’s just such compulsive, entertaining reading, the characters so perfectly and entertainingly rendered. I’m not sure how long it’ll stick with me, but I enjoyed every minute of reading it and would absolutely recommend.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,639 reviews2,149 followers
February 13, 2022
There are a lot of fairy tale retellings/re-examinings these days, which makes this book both well- and ill-timed. It has some interesting ideas to play with but ultimately I'm not sure what it wants to say.

Some of what we're doing here is similar to any other retelling, placing fairy tale stories in a modern context. In this case, examining in particular media coverage of sensational stories, social media, tabloids, the way we judge women in the spotlight, etc. That sounds like it could lead us to an interesting place but we never really spend time diving into it, we keep hopping past it.

The new piece here is adding reality tv (one of our protagonists isn't from any particular fairy tale, although she could also be from any of them, as a regular girl swept up in a fairy tale story of a reality dating show) but I couldn't quite tell what to make of this, either. We're 20 years into reality television, so that now everyone knows it's manufactured and the storylines are created by editing, and it is a bit muddled to combine this story with the story of the others.

The conversations between the protagonists in this "group therapy" style setting often don't actually lead anywhere, and I was usually impatient with them, preferring to get back to the stories the characters were telling about themselves.

I can see how the pieces are all there, but the whole somehow is less than the sum of the parts. With so much of these types of stories happening now, I want it to go a step further and show me something new.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,478 reviews7,774 followers
October 6, 2022
Dark fairytale retellings have become sort of my jam. I intentionally held off reading my advanced copy of How to Be Eaten for an October read and boy oh boy I sorta wish I would have read it right away. The story here revolves around a new form of experimental group therapy. All of the ladies have responded to an email directed to public figures who had suffered some form of personal trauma. Some of the faces are immediately familiar . . . .

And . . . .

(Just go with it.)

The moral of the story is quite simple . . .

Be patient, be kind, be good, say please, say thank you, don’t speak unless spoken to, don’t forget to smile, don’t give it all away, don’t disobey your teachers, your boyfriend, your husband, your producers. But don’t, you know, follow them blindly either. Hold this key, but don’t go in there. Don’t you dare open that door. Don’t cross the street without looking both ways, but don’t dawdle. Yeah, don’t get distracted on your way. Or, actually, you know what? Maybe don’t even be out there, on the street, not if it’s dark, not if you’re alone, not if you’re a kid, not if you’re a woman, not without a rape whistle around your neck, not without pepper spray clutched in your hand, not, anyway, if you’re wearing that outfit. But, I mean, don’t be a prude either.

I’m all about awarding points for fresh voices and originality. While this may have been a twisted take on old subject matter – it felt 100% brand new. It was not, however, funny. Dear Publicists – stop calling things funny when they aren’t. kthxbai.

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Monte Price.
672 reviews1,840 followers
November 19, 2022
I'm not sure where to start with this one.

2022 feels like the year of fairytale retelling for me, and while calling this a retelling feels incorrect because it feels less like a retelling and more like a framing device... if that's even a real distinction. Reading for me usually boils down to enjoyment, but that's not entirely the case here. As much as I was engrossed by the book it definitely feels like something that should be in a book club at minimum and maybe as part of a class, because the text is begging for reader interaction. At least in my humble opinion.

Bernice, Ruby, Ashlee, Raina, and Gretel were all unlike anything I could have expected given what little information I had retained from the first time I heard Kenya talking about this book. It probably helps that Bernice at least was from a story that I'm not too familiar with, but even the other women from stories that were more familiar were still executed in a way that felt honest to the story they were from, but also in the modern world the story takes place in.

Of the limited number of trauma support group novels I've read, this was easily better than the last and one I will likely reread, if not before the year is out then at some point in 2023. Definitely going to be thinking about this one long after today. If you do decide to pick this up just know that it does deal with some heavy topics like abusive relationships, child neglect, death of a loved one; it's a book about trauma and the dark things these women have experienced that led them to this support group so be prepared.
Profile Image for Andy Pronti.
132 reviews16 followers
December 8, 2021
I’m not entirely sure what to say about this novel. I really wanted to like it more than I did. It was an interesting premise that didn’t really play out very well. I don’t want to say that it was a complete waste of time. It was just really strange, which for me to say is really something because I love strange. It just didn’t work for me. Skip this one.
Profile Image for Mel.
257 reviews42 followers
July 14, 2022
Oooof. Wow did my mileage with this book vary. I loved Bernice’s story of escaping Bluebeard and the novel seemed to start off on an encouraging track. Unfortunately, Ruby’s portion proved grating and Ashley’s made me want to throw the book away- repeatedly. I had zero interest in signing up for an uninspired surface level critique of “reality” tv dating shows a la The Bachelor. The TV show Unreal (or at least its first season) did a much better job digging into the ethics and problematic elements of these types of shows, without the internally misogynistic and low hanging fruit that How to be Eaten indulges in, mocking the women who religiously tune in or sign up for televised dating competitions.

Despite my frustrations, I pushed through Ashley’s story and was pleasantly surprised by Gretel’s- the standout of the five group therapy attendee narratives. Her tale grappled with themes of memory, trauma and class inequality’s role in whose stories are told and ultimately believed in a nuanced, sharply written manner. Sadly after Gretel’s story, the book spiralled into a baffling hot mess and ended on a truly awful note. Some weird reveals are divulged that left me feeling indifferent at best- probably because I was so stunned by how terrible the final fifth of the book was.

In the end, this may be the most mathematical rating I have ever inadvertently given a book. I enjoyed exactly 2/5 of the major narratives, and here I am disappointedly logging this as a 2 star read.
Profile Image for Lark Benobi.
Author 1 book2,120 followers
June 18, 2023
just a note to myself that I seem to have no way to access a book written the way this book is written: multiple revolving points of view; a need to care about many characters equally, and all at once; a sly archness in the authorial voice (which always confuses me, as in: "why is the author being so snide and judgmental of characters she created herself?"); and maybe there are many other things to learn about my reading limitations, by having read this novel, but those are the most obvious ones. I bought it because it sounded like my kind of book but it was not.
Profile Image for Rachel.
Author 14 books775 followers
February 15, 2022
Even better than it sounds, HOW TO BE EATEN presents vividly real women haunted by their fairy tale pasts in a deliciously angsty debut. Pure fun pulsing with a dark heart.
Profile Image for Amy Noelle.
234 reviews179 followers
July 12, 2022
2.5⭐️ I loved the idea of this book, fairy tale characters sat in a contemporary setting (New York) and in a support group to work through their traumas. Sounds amazing and I was really interested to get to know each character and hear their story. But with the exception of the first two, Bernice & Ruby, I found myself skimming through most of them. Even though I was interested in learning who these characters were and what they went through, I had zero emotional response to them actually telling their stories and didn’t find myself actually caring about any of them. The fantasy elements that were randomly mixed in, when most of the world functioned like reality, felt out of place and didn’t work for me. I’m so confused about what this book was trying to do and say or what to even categorize this, it was so all over the place. The women were the best part of this book. Their personalities were varied, I really liked them and some of their stories were pretty interesting (again, the first two were my faves) but again, the emotion wasn’t there and for a book so heavily about trauma and fucked up things happening to these women, it should have made me feel something. So much of this was just off for me, unfortunately.

Watch my reading vlog here: https://youtu.be/F4QiQAprWT8

Thanks so much to Little, Brown & Company and Netgalley for the digital arc 🖤
Profile Image for Mags.
65 reviews1 follower
December 2, 2022
epically confusing to me. i'm sitting here looking at other people's reviews trying to figure out if we read the same book. it was bad y'all. i was on board with the concept but it was poorly executed, hugely reductive, the characters fell flat, and the ending makes no goddamn sense. if you like books with a resolution, this book is not for you. if you like books where there are clearly structured rules of reality, this book is not for you. genuinely, and from the bottom of my heart, what the fuck man.
Profile Image for Jennie Damron.
492 reviews62 followers
January 13, 2023
A Christmas present from my daughter and I have to say I enjoyed this one. It was so fast paced and entertaining. This is fairy tales retold in a modern way centered around women in a support group for trauma. It was clever, dark, horrific, and at times funny. I haven't read a story like this and I am surprised I liked it so much. The only reason it is not 5 stars is I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I would have liked it to be more flushed out. That being said I enjoyed my time with this book and am glad I read it.
Profile Image for Chelsea.
Author 2 books620 followers
September 23, 2022
I can't believe that I'm not seeing more about Maria Adelmann's How to Be Eaten because it is a goddam delight. This novel interweaves stories by five (or arguably six) narrators who are based on well-known fairytales, updated to reflect contemporary life. I don't want to give away too much, so let's just say that reality television is the glue that holds them together.

Using fairytale tropes, this book questions what it means to be feminine in a modern world — what it means to live in a female body, to have complicated erotic desires, to live through trauma, and to be constantly scrutinized by the male gaze. That sentence may make you think that How to Be Eaten is dry or didactic, but it's not. It's fresh and funny and weird, and it's beautifully written.

I think of this book as a natural grand-daughter of Angela Carter's short story collection The Bloody Chamber, or a more successful version of Grady Hendrix's Final Girls Support Group. All I can say is go out and read it because, damn, it's good.
Profile Image for Kim Lockhart.
943 reviews121 followers
July 11, 2022
Holy moly, the 2022 debut novels continue to shine. This is yet another new author to watch. Adelmann's writing is agile, clever, and very sharp.

The narrative is feminist social theory, viewed through the lens of fairy tale characters who join a modern day trauma support group. It's a great premise, and the author delivers.
Profile Image for Kristin.
207 reviews8 followers
November 29, 2022
Such an interesting concept only to be the poster child for “what the actual F did I just read?!”

I am equal parts:

⭐️ confused by some of the characters/stories…

⭐️ terrified that people are responding positively to some pretty gruesome characters/stories…

⭐️ bored to tears with other characters/stories…

⭐️ really, really okay with this one being done and never revisiting it

Profile Image for Charlotte Kersten.
Author 3 books468 followers
May 16, 2023
.“How infuriating, to have people all around and to still not be heard.”

I gave a copy of this to my therapist for Christmas before I read it and now that I have, I’m not so sure that it’s as appropriate a gift as I thought it was lol. While I think it’s an intelligent and cleverly written book with some interesting things to say, there are a few significant things that didn’t work for me.

I would say that the book’s strongest point is how it explores the power of women telling their stories, sharing who they actually are, while showing how these stories were taken from them - how they were dissected and regurgitated and turned into crass spectacles by the media. It’s a matter of owning one’s trauma narrative as opposed to having it co-opted and consumed by a voracious, unsympathetic audience. There is a really powerful section where they talk about how they were all blamed for the terrible things that happened to them; the endless, contradictory, impossible expectations that are put on women who go through such things. This part of the book struck me as timely, astute and all-too true.

The other bit that I love is how they gradually bond over time, from Ashlee and Bernice becoming unlikely friends and roommates to how consistently kind and insightful Raina is to everyone in the group. The book is also very funny in places, especially when it comes to all things Ashlee and Ruby:

“You’re triggering Bernice by looking dead,” says Ashlee.
“I’m triggering myself by being me,” says Ruby.

The main thing that doesn’t work for me is that this process that is supposed to be about them reclaiming their narratives is actually just Yet while this is the case, they are still inexplicably empowered at the end of the book. The idea might be that the positive effects come from how they bond and come together after Will’s betrayal, but I don’t necessarily know A) how narratively satisfying this is and B) how clear the author makes it in text.

By virtue of some characters contributing more than others during the therapy sessions, some are much more developed than others. Additionally, some of their stories are stronger than others. Gretel works the least well for me as a character because she is so incredibly distant, quiet and emotionally uninvolved. Ashlee’s story stands out, and not in a good way, because it’s the loosest retelling and the “reality TV is exploitative and bad” angle just feels very tired to me while not gelling with the rest thematically.

All in all, I think this is a super unique read that has a lot going for it and I’m glad to have read it, but I can’t quite help but feel frustrated by some of the ways it fell short for me. And I may or may not have to clarify with my therapist that I am not at all concerned about her
Profile Image for Ana (readwithana_).
69 reviews7 followers
July 14, 2023
There’s not much to say other than GO READ THIS BOOK.
AHHHHH 😭😭😍 I’ll be thinking about it for a while so many layersssssss
Profile Image for Chrissann Nickel.
Author 1 book16 followers
July 11, 2022
This is such a strange premise for a book. I was looking forward to an entertainingly weird read, but ended up more bored by this book than engaged. I found myself struggling to get through it, dying for it to either get to the point or just be over already.

I didn’t realize it would be so reality TV-centric. If so, I likely would have skipped it.

Rather than an intriguing fairy tale retelling, this felt like superficial, pseudo psychological nonsense with a bunch of odd details mixed in.

This one just wasn’t for me and I’m not sure I’d recommend it to anyone else, though apparently other reviewers found much to enjoy in it. I must be missing what’s “darkly funny” here. To me, it was just a letdown.
Profile Image for Stay Fetters.
2,113 reviews133 followers
August 17, 2023
"To want is to be bewitched, I’ve long thought. If it’s beautiful or sweet, it will ruin you."

How can you see the title of this book and not want to read it? I get that look (we all know that look) on my face every time I see the title. I didn't really need to know what the book was about because the title said it all. Everything about this was a wicked time and I'm ready for more.

We have all heard about the Grimm fairytales and their cruel endings but what happens when all of that is a deception? We only know what we have heard but maybe there are deeper things going on.

This book was wild and it takes trashy tv to an entirely new level. If you love those evenings with a tall glass of wine and the reality tv shows that would make a Priest sweat then this book is for you.
Profile Image for AndiReads.
1,013 reviews98 followers
March 25, 2022
This darkly funny and provocative novel reimagines classic fairy tale characters as modern women in a support group for trauma.

Super fun and creative book depicting women suffering from PTSD following their experiences in fairy tales (such as Hansel and Gretel) and reality shows (like the Bachelor. The women come together by choice for group therapy session. Some of the back and forth between the personalities confused me, but I really enjoyed the personal stories of each of the women.

The cover does not do this book justice! This book is colorful and wacky and dark and sardonic. As the pub quote states - this book puts fairy tales on their heads to reveal them as " anti-feminist nightmares, and transforms them into a new kind of myth for grown-up women." If you were always annoyed by fairy tales, or the dating reality shows or are just in the mood for a little book therapy, #HowToBeEaten is for you!
#littlebrown #netgalley #netgalleyreads
Profile Image for Sammie Reads.
812 reviews88 followers
July 19, 2022
This is a really interesting and unique take on a women’s support group. Five women have been wronged in different ways by powerful men (and one witch in a gingerbread house) and have been brought together by the mysterious Will to get a chance to commiserate and tell their stories.

Except these stories are adaptations of fairy tales (Beauty and the Beast, Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumpelstiltskin) and an adaptation of The Bachelor. They use these as metaphors for being put in impossible situations and being forced to make choices they never should have had to make.

And how society wants to victim shame by putting it back to the victim’s choices rather than pointing out that they never should have been put in the position to have to do so! It was pretty interesting and I loved that while I didn’t really like any of the women at first, they came into their own power and voices by the end of it!
Profile Image for Sami Rose.
117 reviews1 follower
October 27, 2021
This is a really incredible and imaginative book transporting the horrific fairytales we grew up with into 5 haunting and darkly comedic stories about the very real ways men harm women. If you like Her Body and Other Stories this is definitely for you.
Profile Image for Clare Carter.
Author 2 books30 followers
July 11, 2023
*edit: after spilling the tea with Cat and Erin I'm giving this 1.5-stars; any merit I found in the beginning was just kinda ruined by the end. I feel like this story went nowhere and the stories weren't really resolved. IDK. This just....was bad.*

Bruh what the fuuuccckkkk

I…I don’t know. I liked this book at first, I was intrigued to see each of the 5 girls’ stories and I was pretty invested until probably Gretel’s, but…I dunno, I wanted more from each of their stories. I am totally fine not getting a “happy” ending for each of them but I guess I just wanted more details amongst the stories just to feel what these girls went through even more.

Raina’s story totally lost me though LMAO WHAT!! THE!!! FUCK!!! The twist was also weird and didn’t make sense?? And other aspects weren’t resolved at all?? And I feel like were just in there for shock value I guess…

I don’t knowww, I liked the structure of this book and the idea of it and a lot of the fairy tale parallels were very clever but overall I wish it had just been that instead of trying to do this weird twist reveal thing that didn’t really work for me. Also could have done without Raina’s story lol I felt like that one was a completely different book than the rest of the stories. Anyway!!!
Profile Image for Megan.
432 reviews20 followers
July 16, 2022
Having read and enjoyed The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix I couldn't help but feel this might be a bit similar so I might enjoy this one too. Turns out, it wasn't only similar but it was better! The dark fairytale fantasy twist was right up my street and I found it really hard to put the book down.
The characters were well developed and diverse and I enjoyed each and every one of their stories. Honestly I couldn't get enough and would have happily read a whole novel about each girl!
Although the story was bizarre and fun there were also more serious moments of real growth and commentary on the likes of gender stereotypes, victim blaming and how the media can spin things.

I'll be keeping a close eye on this author for future novels!
Profile Image for Queralt✨.
402 reviews76 followers
September 15, 2023
Fairy tale characters meet in a New York City and in a support group to work through trauma as they retell their stories. Interesting premise, but it was just misery porn and while their stories were supposed to be quite traumatic, I felt no emotions about them? I couldn’t connect with the characters, so I guess that’s part of the problem.

The last story mocks women who join reality TV and idk, I do watch reality TV so I guess it didn’t sit well with me 🤷‍♀️
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