Cover Image: American Mermaid

American Mermaid

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Penelope is gearing up for Hollywood to work on the screenplay of her successful book but she is totally unprepared for Hollywood's expectations when truth comes crashing. There is a book about the mermaid within this book and both the plots are interspersed. As the writers keep changing how the main character needs to look according to them, Penelope can't understand how things are going a lot different than anticipated. At one point, it seems like the mermaid has come in real life to handle this situation and keep the adaptation truer to the original book. This is a very different plotline and I can say for sure that it would be an amazing option for book clubs as there is so much to unpack and discuss forever.
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Penelope is a broke high school teacher who has written a novel: American Mermaid. It’s the story of a wheelchair bound scientist who discovers her legs are really vestiges of a tail. When it becomes a bestseller Penelope soon finds herself lured to LA by promise of easy money to turn her book into a screenplay. 

As the studio pressures Penelope to turn her amazing scientist lead into a teenage sex object strange and threatening things start to happen. When Penelope’s screenwriting partner try to kill of the main character completely, Penelope starts to wonder if her character doesn’t only exist on paper. 

This book was rather entertaining! I really enjoyed the different formats the book presented. I am usually a fan of a book within a book setting and I found I really enjoyed it here as well. I found the writing rather clever, and while not laugh out loud funny the book was humorous. I found the characters unique and satisfying. I had originally picked this one up on my kindle, but then received the hard copy. This is one that I preferred reading in physical copy as it was harder to get the formatting on my screen. I see great things from this author going forward!

I want to say thank you so much to Doubleday Books and Netgalley for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! 

Netgalley will be updated with instagram link once posted.
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A book within a book!  

A former high school teacher heads to Hollywood to help draft a screenplay of her famous novel about a mermaid. In Penny's new life, she has money and fame, a far cry from her teaching days in Connecticut. Penny soon learns that Hollywood has a different perspective on how the heroine of her novel should be portrayed, different than how she's written her. 

As the story progresses, Penny's world begins to blur with her fictional tale. American Mermaid is unique story that touches on feminism, the environment and acceptance. Penny's storyline was entertaining, especially her interactions with the screenwriters.  I also throughly enjoyed how Penny's novel was sprinkled throughout the read, as we learn about a Sylvia, the mermaid. 

Thank you Doubleday for the complimentary copy.
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This novel is about a former English teacher named Penny, who unexpectedly wrote a huge bestselling debut novel called American Mermaid, and has quit her job to go to Hollywood to work in the screenplay adaptation, only to find that her two dude bro type screenwriters and the studio want to change and dumb down her book. Interspersed with Penny’s narrative are chapters of the book she wrote, a sort of feminist climate fiction novel about Sylvia, who unbeknownst to her was found on the beach as a mermaid baby, but then given surgery by her adoptive parents to split her tail into legs, which left her disabled - and only as an adult does she find that when submerged she becomes a mermaid again.

So as you can see, a lot going on in this one! The premise was so intriguing, but for me the execution didn’t quite get all the way there. For one thing, the book within the book about Sylvia was actually much more interesting than Penny’s story. Sylvia’s story was weird but definitely a different take on mermaids, while Penny mostly just texted with her screenwriters and went to industry parties where she got wasted, and the Hollywood satire was probably pretty accurate but just wasn’t saying anything so new. And I found the ending kind of confusing and anticlimactic. Still, definitely an interesting premise and I think some people will love this one.
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American Mermaid was an entertaining read, but it just didn't capture me the way I was hoping, based off the plot blurb!

So let's start there: Penelope is an English teacher who wrote a book that has been optioned for a movie. It's about a girl who grows up in a wheelchair, not knowing she's a mermaid, until she throws herself into a body of water in an effort to die, wherein her legs form back into a tail, and she is able to move freely. I'm discussing the book within the book so much because for me, this was the most interesting part. Throughout the story, we get vignettes from the book Penelope wrote, and those kept me hanging on. The rest of the story is how Hollywood is trying to change Penelope's book from feminist, smart, and asexual to sexy, young, and less thoughtful.

Thankfully, this book is on the shorter side. Sometimes I enjoy a bit of ambiguity in a book's ending, but in this instance, it annoyed me. I wanted either more humor or more creepiness from the book, and it landed smack in the middle of those two, floating in between two paths that, had one been solidly chosen, could have really made this book stand out.

3.5 stars. Entertaining, but, for me, not memorable.

Thanks to Netgalley and Doubleday Books for the e-ARC!
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4.5 stars
American Mermaid is definitely a unique, fun, and delightful ride, getting inside the mind of Penny. this book has a sense of humor that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, bur i really enjoyed it and appreciate the directions Langbein takes with the story. 
We also get ‘book within a book’ chapters from Penny’s novel interspersed throughout, and the only thing hindering this from being a 5 star book for me was that i felt those portions started losing steam about halfway through and i just wanted to go back to Penny’s story.
would it be too meta to wish this was made into a miniseries?
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Well, this book is an absolute joy to read! It's weird. But good weird. As in, weird enough to be different and stand out in its genre, but not weird enough that I was left confused or not understanding what the author was doing. It's the kind of weird I aspire to be in my daily life.

Penelope is a high school teacher who has just happened to write a novel that became very popular, and has now quit her job to move to LA and assist in the writing of the screenplay for movie adaptation. She is paired with two men who, while absolutely cliches of the Hollywood male screenwriter trope, are somehow not entirely unlikable. They're all there to do a job, and Penelope is a fish out of water (hee hee) who puts her trust in these more experienced writers. 

Switching back and forth between the plot itself and excerpts from Penelope's novel about a mermaid turned human named Sylvia, I was equally invested in both stories. Penelope is at sea (yup I did it again) at the fancy pool parties and glamorous soirees of Hollywood, and continually gets too drunk and makes some dubious choices. Meanwhile, something is happening to her screenplay that she swears she is not engineering, convincing her that Sylvia has somehow come to life to protect her story, as the men involved attempt to turn her into a classic, sex glorified mermaid dummy. 

SO entertaining, so fun, and also somewhat moving, this is a great book for individual reading, but also for larger discussions in book clubs, etc. Loved this one, and now I hope mermaids are real.
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No Surprises Here

At thirty=three years old, Penny Schleeman, an English teacher at a public high school, bemoans the fact that she does not earn enough money.  She believes it is impossible to have a middle-class job and financially survive.  This could be true so she writes a successful novel about Sylvia, a young woman, who transforms into a mermaid.  The book becomes a bestseller - hard to believe.  What is harder to believe is Penny is naive enough to think that when she gets a deal to adapt her book for the screen, she will have control. The two veteran screenwriters rewrite the premise of the novel changing Sylvia into a typical teenager who is starving for love.

There are some good laughs, but the novel moves at a slow pace and I was waiting for the plot to move faster. Most of us want to live on our own terms and Langbein is trying to make Sylvia into a hero.  The book became cryptic and proved that a first-time novelist is really a hard job.

My gratitude to Doubleday and NetGalley for this pre-published book.  All opinions expressed are my own.
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American Mermaid feels unique and fresh. A little different, a little out there at times, but I liked it.

After an influencer helps boost the sales of Penny’s debut novel, American Mermaid, Penny moves to Hollywood to work on the screen adaptation, and she finds herself navigating unfamiliar waters (pun intended). 

It is evident that Julia Langbein is a comedian, and I found Penny’s inner dialogue and observations of Hollywood, its people, and its ways to be very entertaining. I love Penny’s vivid imagination.

Some readers will enjoy the story-within-a-story, as the novel alternates between chapters of the fictional novel American Mermaid, where Sylvia is a mermaid who is discovering that she was taken from the sea and raised as a human. While this storyline is very creative, I preferred Penny’s point of view more, but I loved the way the two storylines echoed one another and both address ideas of feminism, sexualization, environmentalism, and greed.

Teachers and former teachers, you will appreciate the way Penny reflects on teaching teenagers and her desire to be able to be a teacher without having to work a second job. I honestly picked this one up because the idea of a high school English teacher moving to Hollywood and immersing herself in the world of movie-making really interested me. Others may want to pick this up due to a love of mermaids and mermaid lore. Whatever the reason, it’s an entertaining novel.

Reviews posted on Goodreads (Michelle Beginandendwithbooks) and FB and IG Beginandendwithbooks
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In American Mermaid, Julia Lanbein embeds a novel within the novel. It’s this embedded story that captures the reader and keeps them reading the main book. 
Penelope Schleeman’s book American Mermaid becomes a bestseller. It’s a story of a girl with a disability who finds out she is a mermaid. Penelope leaves her teaching job in Connecticut and moves to LA for the summer. She has been hired to co-write the screenplay of her novel along with two males who have been successful in movies but missed the feminism intrinsic to the novel. Penelope spends her time going to parties, getting drunk, and writing/arguing with her co-writers. The studio wants to sex up the story and change the end of her mermaid.  Strange things start to happen; Penelope is almost killed in the sea and the screenplay script keeps getting changed in the night. That’s only the beginning of the weird circumstances. Is this payback for her allowing Hollywood to change her tale? 
The main novel about Penelope is mostly boring, insipid, and not funny. Until creepy things start to happen and the reader thinks the book may fall into another genre, doesn’t capture the attention. I can only read about Penelope getting smashed at a party and waking up in the morning not sure about her own actions only so many times. Observations by the character that are supposed to be funny, seemed jealous and trite making Penelope look whiny and self-absorbed. She overvalues her education as she continues to do stupid things leading up to the book’s apex. I mean is the character a woman or a freaking teenager?
American Mermaid is saved by the excerpts from Penelope’s book throughout. These sections were well-written with more subtle themes. This tale of a wheelchair-bound woman whose misformed legs turn into a mermaid tale does deal with the patriarchy and eco-issues without being so obvious and in your face like the main novel. It is these sections where we follow the post-college student and her true coming-of-age story that were worth reading. I suffered through Penelope’s character and her actions just to get to this story. I would have loved for this section to have been the whole book.
The book is probably pretty spot-on about Hollywood and screenwriting and what it’s like to be a new author in the movie world. But it was written in thinly veiled contempt swinging what might have been humorous to being trite. It is the novel within the novel where the story shines.
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Penelope has just moved to Los Angeles after her debut novel, American Mermaid became wildly popular thanks to an Instagram influence who skyrocketed her books success, landing her on the Today show. and she’s doing her best to woo Hollywood and see how far her success can take her. She abruptly left her job teaching English in New Haven and her close friend, Derek and now she’s uncomfortably hobnobbing with agents and writers and going to parties with people she can’t relate to. Alternating between her chapters and actual excerpts from American Mermaid, her novel about a mer-child adopted into a human family. When threats begin taking hold, Penelope wonders if her fictitious mermaid is coming to life to take revenge on the powerful people trying to take control of her narrative. This is a wildly funny, bittersweet and wonderfully weird novel that explores issues of power, class and money. I loved it and I think fans of Melissa Broder, Lydia Millet and Emily Austin will enjoy this book! Thank you to Doubleday and to Netgalley for the advanced review copy.
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Not my typical read (Hollywood) but couldn’t resist the cover and the synopsis of the book within the book featuring someone with a disability! Really enjoyed the humor!
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Thank you to @doubledaybooks for my advanced e-galley!

I can’t describe this without giving a lot away, but in brief, it’s about a Connecticut teacher who makes her way to LA to develop her novel of a mermaid into a Hollywood film, and some weirdness ensues. 

It did have some genuine laugh out loud moments, and our narrator/MC reminded me a lot of Karen Kilgariff. 
I’m refraining from giving this a star rating, because it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before 😂 if you’re looking for a book within a book comedy that is very weird and different, this book is for you.

Happy pub day to AMERICAN MERMAID 🧜‍♀️ and let me know if this is on your radar!
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Review // American Mermaid by Julia Langbein 

American Mermaid is a quirky, enjoyable but uneven tale of success, failure and stories within stories. 

Penelope Schleeman’s first novel is not a best-seller and she is struggling to make enough money for rent, food and a potentially life-saving surgery on her teacher’s salary. But when a famous influencer posts about Penny’s book, sales suddenly go through the roof and there’s a lucrative offer for a movie adaptation. Penny quits her job, heads to Los Angeles and starts working with two hilarious but ruthless screenwriters. Her cowriters want to water down Penny’s ideas about mermaid power into a splashy action movie with a sexy mermaid protagonist who, of course, must die in the end. Penelope resists and turmoil follows. 

Langbein's novel alternates between Penelope's chaotic and accident-filled adventures in L.A. and excerpts from her movie manuscript. The humor often feels a bit slapstick as the protagonist stumbles through mansions and gets in trouble with producers, agents and screenwriters. You can tell that the author is a standup comedian: some lines don’t land so well, while others make you cackle with delight and recognition. I appreciated Penelope’s self-deprecating thoughts on vanity, fantasy and friendship and preferred her romps around town to the movie manuscript chapters. To me, as a non-expert on the mermaid genre, these chapters seemed to be mostly a confusing and bizarre mash-up of various shows and movies, including The Shape of Water, Splash and Killer Mermaid.

Mermaids may not be my thing after all, but I think Langbein’s novel would be a fun summer read for bookclub or vacation: the flesh-eating mermaids will make you think twice about going for a swim, but the champagne-filled parties in Malibu, the sympathetic protagonist and the sharp comedy turn this novel into a delightfully weird beach read. And in the right hands, it might even make a decent movie. 

Many thanks to Doubleday Books and NetGalley for providing a digital ARC in exchange for my honest review.

3.5/5 ⭐️
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This is the story of Penelope, a teacher turned writer who relocates to L.A. and begins helping turn her debut novel about a mermaid into a film. The story is told in chapters from Penny’s perspective and then excerpts from her book, American Mermaid. 

This is definitely a very different kind of story and while I liked some of the banter and the oddities of the female writer I also found myself a little weary of that same banter more often than not. The American Mermaid story within the book was my favorite part. 

Overall, I think I liked the concept of this one more than the actual story. The best word to sum up how I felt about this debut novel… Peculiar. I’m curious to hear what others will think of this one. 

Thank you Doubleday Books and Netgalley for the arc in exchange for an honest review.
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This is such an interesting story. Satire and wit at its finest. It also is impossible to define the genre, as it hits so many different ones. The uniqueness of American Mermaid ensured I’ll be thinking of this for a long time to come.
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I was looking forward to jumping into this novel, especially since I love anything mermaid. Sadly, this one just didn't deliver for me, and I found myself trudging along reluctantly until I finally decided to give up.

Langbein writes the text in the first person, and it is written as a thought process. Personally, I found it too wordy and hard to follow, I was struggling through Penelope's story. The 'book within a book' was more insteresting. I don't mind the 'book within a book' style, but in this case it didn't work for me. It felt like a filler and there wasn't any connection between Penny and Sylvia. All of the characters were one-dimensional and lacked development, and the plot was messy and redundant. From some of the reviews I have read I can see that this book might be enjoyable for some, but for me personally it didn't work.
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The cover is the best thing about this one. It started with some dark comedy that made me chuckle but then it was just constant self-deprecation. I also like a book within a book format but I don't know which of the two was worse with this novel.
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I haven’t laughed out loud while reading in a LONG TIME like I did in Julia Langbein’s AMERICAN MERMAID. Smart and funny and topical - this one kept me on my toes. A schoolteacher writes a book that gets noticed because an online influencer has it on a table for a post - it gets optioned for a movie - the teacher moves to LA and…we’re off. Go in cold and just go with it. It’s odd and fun and smart. How great is that? Thanks to Doubleday for the advanced copy!
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Thank you NetGalley and publisher for the eArc of this work in exchange for my honest review. 

Langbein's work follows Penelope as she leaves teaching after her novel, American Mermaid, is sold to Hollywood, and she heads to LA to help write the screenplay. The premise sounds fantastic, and for some I am sure it will be considered a perfect read for them. Told from Penelope's perspective with excerpts from her novel, this book takes readers on a journey. I understood the tones of feminism from both Penelope and Sylvia's POVs, and I can appreciate the genre mixing throughout. I wanted to love this...

To me there are few moments of comedy, moments of family drama, moments of honesty about what it is like to have a lot of education but no payout from the job and having someone take your work and dissect it until it is wholly theirs, and moments of...confusion. As Penelope deals with two seasoned Hollywood writers completely taking her work and changing it, attends and flounders at "all the right parties" the story turns into a whirlwind of alcohol, frustration, and paranoia.  

Both Penelope and her fictional mermaid Sylvia have happy endings, but I often felt lost and frustrated reading this. I can see why others may like this newest work, but for me it was a miss. It was a struggle to get through, and I almost DNF'd this book so many times over the month of daily reading that it took me to finish.
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