{ARC} Review: How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann

How to Be Eaten

Maria Adelmann

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. 

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Published: May 31st 2022

Murder, Death, Sexual Assault, Rape, Blood Depiction, Self Harm, Drug Abuse, Child Abuse/Neglect, Mutilation, Kidnapping, Fatphobia, Sexism, Ableism

This was a strange little book that I had requested on a whim, expecting… well I don’t know what I was expecting, but I do love me a good retelling. I mean, the premise of modernizing four fairytales into women dealing with their PTSD in a trauma group plus one I must mention was a premise I was intrigued by.

Now I don’t have much to say about this story considering it was a quick read and again… it was odd. However, I must preface– this story is not for the faint of heart. A lot of hard hitting topics are discussed here and there’s no sugarcoating what these women have gone through. As always, please go into this with a good headspace friends.

I’m going to start off with our characters before anything else, because in order to understand the story, you have to know the people telling the story:

❥ Bernice – the girlfriend of “Bluebeard”– an eccentric entrepreneur, fat and highly insecure about it, her narrative of being in everyones shadow, of her voice being erased in her own narrative gave me a sense of empathy in ways that are more personal than I was expecting.

❥ Gretel – of the Hansel and Gretel tale, the take on her story in which she came from poverty and a rough childhood, another take on the theft of narrative, except maybe her own brain is coping in ways that are fantastical in nature. I’d also like to point out that she is in a sapphic relationship and that self sabotage is very real.

❥ Ruby – our Little Red Riding Hood, the archetype of the she asked for it mentality, someone who’s life has spiraled but because she’s self aware it’s fine, right? The most outspoken and angry and crass of the group, but one who’s story we’ve all heard before.

❥ Raina – our Rumplestiltkin story, the most elusive character, the most understanding member of the group– we don’t get her story until much later, but it’s a story being peddled around and no one really seeing you for you.

❥ Ashlee – on a Bachelor like reality show swept up in her own fairytale romance, but doesn’t know if her happy ending is what she wanted.

And while there are discussion of self love and body image, internalized misogyny, etc– with the inclusion of media coverage, social media and the abject scrutiny of a female narrative, I just wish they’re more interconnected, you know?

Now, I understand these women are dealing with their traumas and coping with them. However, there’s a thin line between fantasy and allegory and I… can’t see that line. Many a times I was confused on the modernization of said stories, when they were portrayed as such I’m trying not to spoil you’d really just have to see for yourself. Yet, each woman’s journey to healing, their varying levels of self awareness was what had kept me going. And it helps that each character was likable even in their unlikable moments.

And yet… the story overall felt aimless. The ending felt unsatisfactory. The twist, which I saw coming a mile away, felt lack luster. I think I would have really enjoyed this more if this was a collection of short stories giving each individual story their own time to come to fruition. I genuinely enjoyed this peculiar little story on hope and healing though, I just… don’t know if it’s for everyone. Try it out for yourself.

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