Cover Image: Beautyland


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I honestly really enjoyed this book. It is an interesting way of viewing life. Adina is an “alien” detailing how humans live and I loved her quick little notes. It makes you as a reader feel like an alien and watching someone detail learning every little thing they notice about people and the world around them. It’s is a great commentary on how hard it is growing up and going through rough times.

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What a beautiful and inventive novel, I've never read anything quite like it. BEAUTYLAND is my first Marie-Helene Bertino novel, and clearly I've been missing out. It was fun going into it not knowing much. because Adina, our protagonist, is a strange creature. She believes she is an alien, communicating with her home planet via a fax machine for most of her life. They want to know about Adina's life as a human. It's a very interesting and fresh way to look at a coming of age novel, and Bertino absolutely nails it.

The book can often be weird, but in the best ways. I often found myself wanting a big plot twist, but it's not that kind of book. It's a character study, and it's also very sad! But it's just like life. We go through all of the ups and downs of human existence with Adina. There are no earth shattering revelations, just quiet philosophical epiphanies told through the lens of an usual girl, who becomes an unusual woman. Bertino's writing is incredible and smart, I will definitely be reading more of her in the future.

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The tone is inconsistent, the voice is detached and unemotional. And the book just gets heavier and heavier as it goes along. The metaphors were confusing. It just made me sad and depressed.

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“Its hard to make human beings believe in things.”

This quote manages to sum up Beautyland by Marie-Helene Bertino. I wanted to believe in this one (it's a quirky, layered novel) but, for me, it never truly delivers on its promise/premise.

Adina is an alien girl born to a human mother in Earth. As she grows up, she is tasked with sharing her observations about humanity and life on Earth with the powers that be from her “home” planet. Beautyland follows her from birth and throughout life, shedding light into what it is to be an outsider.

Sounds like an intriguing premise, right? I wish I could say this one worked for me. Maybe it was my fault for setting my expectations too high.

It has many elements that I was hoping for, like humor and insight on humanity. And there are some truly beautiful passages that took my breath away. But unfortunately where it lost me was its tonal shifts that interrupted the flow of the story and didn't work for me personally as a reader. Maybe that was intentional but for me, it made it a bit of a rocky read. I can see this one connecting with a lot of people but it did resonate with me as much as I'd hoped.

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Literally won't be the same after reading this book, that's how effing good it is. I want to both cry endlessly and laugh maniacally after finishing it. I'm so happy I get to read this book and hang with Adina and Butternut and Toni for the rest of my alienated human life. I'm gonna go eat a bagel now. RIP Roger.

My review will be included in a reading vlog on my YouTube channel, will link once posted. **sob**

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My first 5 star book of 2024 is here, 𝗕𝗘𝗔𝗨𝗧𝗬𝗟𝗔𝗡𝗗 by Marie-Helene Bertino. One of my goals for this year is to read outside my comfort zone and it’s paid off big with this one. ⁣⁣⁣
Adina is born to a single mom in 1977 on the same day Voyager 1 is launched. Their life isn’t easy and Adina is just a little different, but so are lots of kids. Unlike other kids, Adina has knowledge of a distant planet that even she doesn’t really understand. When her mom acquires an old fax machine, Adina discovers she can use it to communicate with her home. Her task seems simple: to report back on the day-to-day lives of earthlings.⁣⁣⁣
Now, that may sound very sci-fi, but let me assure you it’s not. In most regards Adina is a normal girl going through all the things girls go through. She longs to be in the popular group, her mom embarrasses her, she has a best friend who’s always there for her, she doesn’t know what to do with her life, but knows she wants more. In almost every way she’s just a girl growing up in Philadelphia while trying to figure out her life.⁣⁣⁣
What makes this book standout are Adina’s very short reports back to her home planet. In tight prose, Bertino beautifully uses those to describe what it is to be human, to feel love and loss, to grow and change, to experience both hope and despair, to know the comfort of others and to feel completely alone. It was stunning. I didn’t want the book to end, but I couldn’t stop listening. Narrator Andi Arndt was fantastic, but I know I’d have loved it just as much in print. The ending? Perfection! So, no matter what form you read it in, just read 𝘉𝘦𝘢𝘶𝘵𝘺𝘭𝘢𝘯𝘥. You’ll be glad you did! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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What a deceiving description. Alien comes to earth in the form of a young girl born the same day NASA sends Voyager 1 into space. But oh man is Beautyland so much more than that. It's a spare and at times heartbreaking portrait of girlhood, womanhood, and plain old personhood. Difficult at some points to read, laughable in others, it lays out how hard it is to be human but also how beautiful it can be as well. With a clever premise that belies it's much bigger message, I think Beautyland will captivate a lot of people.

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Love the writing! This is some spaced out, interstellar, pop-culture inflected, alienated, yet beautiful literary-stretching the edges of genre-fiction. I appreciated "He has friendly-looking hair" and other quirks in the writing. A wild ride & I recommend it. Thanks for the ARC!

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Adina is an alien. She arrives to Earth, born to a single mother in Philadelphia who almost dies giving birth, the same day the Voyager 1 is launched. Her job is to observe humanity, and she takes constant notes which she then transmits to her supervisors via an old fax machine. On the surface, it’s a wacky premise. There is indeed a lot of humor in this book! But it’s so much less wacky than it sounds. And so much deeper, too.

“If she believed the T-shirts sold on the boardwalk, a woman was a ball or chain, someone stupid you’re with, someone to lie to so a man can work out or drink beer. If she believed fathers on television shows, women were a constant pain, wanting red roses or a nice dinner out. If she learned how to be a girl from songs, it was worse. If she learned from other girls, worse still.”

The observations Adina sends through her fax machine are all so straightforward, but somehow in their simplicity they take on a poignancy and profundity that I didn’t expect. Her description of a friend moving away reminded me a little of a particular Mountain Goats lyric (“an astronaut could have seen the hunger in my eyes from space”) that always knocks me flat:

“The car is one of many chugging toward the boulevard, but it contains one of the only humans Adina loves. It is a family moment. She wonders if Hubble can see them with its powerful eye. Five people waving toward a retreating car.”

Just like the humans she encounters in her day-to-day life, Adina feels lonely, sad, and sometimes homesick, more so as her life continues and she experiences loss and begins to question her purpose. She is such a relatable character, and Marie-Helene Bertino portrays her so tenderly.

“The human lifespan was perfectly designed to be brief but to at times feel endless. A set of years that pass in a minute, eternity in an afternoon.”

The writing in this novel is just gorgeous. Bertino explores what it means to be a girl, a woman, a human; what it means to yearn for a home you’ve never known; what it means to live.

By the end of Adina’s story, I was sobbing, feeling seen and less alone, overcome by life’s brevity and beauty. It feels impossible to do it justice in a short review, so I will just say: what a special book. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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This beautiful novel left me with so many questions, and one lovely possible answer. It’s the complete life story of Adina, who thinks she is—and maybe is—an alien. Her entry into our world is unusual, and so’s her exit. Nothing about her quite fits through childhood and into adulthood; she can’t lie, she struggles with physical contact and affection, and she’s aromantic (even though she later has a full-blown and very awkward relationship). Add to this Adina’s harried and mostly single mother as she struggles to raise her, and barely has the time or energy to be emotionally present for her child—although their relationship has many tender moments, and they learn to connect with age.

What Beautyland is is a celebration of difference. We’ve all felt like aliens at some point in our lives. Adina is just all of our “things” in one loveable semi-human—with the lesson that perhaps that’s what we all truly are, in spite of our general agreement to pretend a norm. Adina is superbly executed and fiercely, almost defiantly written. I don’t think I’ll encounter many other characters this memorable, no matter how many more books I read.

Thank you to Netgalley and to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for access.

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From the time of her birth, Adina Giorno is unusual. She believes she has knowledge of a planet far away. And when her mother acquires a fax machine, Adina is able to contact the people from that planet and communicate with them. Through the fax, she shares her observations about the the frequently surprising practices of human beings. As Adina grows up, she develops a deeper understanding, and sympathy, for humans and the challenges of their daily lives -- challenges she finds herself experiencing, just as her observations reach a larger audience than she could have ever expected.

This was an interesting and perceptive book. Through Adina, the book offers thoughtful reflections on the nature of family and friendships, what it takes to make those relationships enduring and meaningful, and the many different types of connection.

Highly recommended.

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In this futuristic sci-fi tale, extraterrestrial alien Adina gets transmitted and born to an Earth mother in late 1970’s Philadelphia. The novel explores the all-too-human feelings around alienation and takes a Margaret Mead (famous for studying gorillas in the wild) type examination of humans and their social conventions. Raised in poverty by a struggling single Mom and the brunt of prejudice for her dark Sicilian looks in a white neighborhood, Adina grow up feeling truly alienated.

Adina’s superiors from her home planet whose name is unpronounceable by humans but would sound like Cricket Rice (here the wry humor begins) activate Adina to consciousness at age 5 and give her the mission of reporting back to her home planet on her human experience. Specifically, they want to know if Earth and humans could provide an alternative home. Adina’s race has evolved past physical bodies into a collective consciousness.

Adina spends time with her superiors during her dreams, where they shimmer in front of a human-like classroom teaching her both human basics and glimpses into humanity’s future. Adina’s race is in distress, looking for an alternative planet to inhabit, and snuck Adina onto Earth as a human to share insights with them about humanity.

As Adina enters Earth, an unmanned probe is launched to share human culture with any intelligence that encounters it, and Carl Sagan rules the day of astronomical speculation that there must be other evolved species within the vastness of the universe.

Adina’s Mom finds an old fax machine in the trash, which turns into a one-way communication device for Adina to send written updates of what she’s found. Much of the novel centers on missives sent between Adina and her overseers – filled by poignant insights by Adina and mostly snark but from her superiors who wrap themselves up in a superior attitude of being unimpressed by humans and Adina alike. Adina gets back mostly two-word answers to her questions, mostly sardonic, from her superiors take a logical angle on all she shares, and while desperate for insights ignore the heart of Adina’s missive about the emotionality of the human experience.

Adina forms strong bonds of friendship and begins to share her keen observations of humanity in a published book. As Adina matures, so do the depth of her insights. Caught between the wonders of being an individual living on Earth, an unending sense of loneliness and alienation, and the desire to return to her home collective, Adina plunges us into a unique perspective of what it means to an Earthling.

Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.

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A lovely reading experience, We all feel alien sometimes.

From the acclaimed author of Parakeet, Marie-Helene Bertino, Beautyland is a wise, tender novel about a woman who doesn't feel at home on Earth.

At the moment when Voyager 1 is launched into space carrying its famous golden record, a baby of unusual perception is born to a single mother in Philadelphia. Adina Giorno is tiny and jaundiced, but she reaches for warmth and light. As a child, she recognizes that she is different: She possesses knowledge of a faraway planet. The arrival of a fax machine enables her to contact her extraterrestrial relatives, beings who have sent her to report on the oddities of Earthlings.

For years, as she moves through the world and makes a life for herself among humans, she dispatches transmissions on the terrors and surprising joys of their existence. Then, at a precarious moment, a beloved friend urges Adina to share her messages with the world. Is there a chance she is not alone?

Marie-Helene Bertino’s Beautyland is a novel of startling originality about the fragility and resilience of life on our Earth and in our universe. It is a remarkable evocation of the feeling of being in exile at home, and it introduces a gentle, unforgettable alien for our times.

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As interesting as the plot synopsis is, I'm not sure I totally got this book. The book was made up of many interesting observations written to aliens to help them better understand humans. I enjoyed many of the observations, but it didn't turn into much of a story, leaving me unsure of the point

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I absolutely adored this book! What a treat to visit life through such fresh eyes. Adina was such an interesting character with such spot-on observations. This is a must-read for everyone - I cried, laughed, cheered. Such a beautiful story from such an original perspective. Flawless.

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So, this book left me with a "WTF did I just read" feeling while also loving it, which makes it hard to describe and harder to give a cogent review. Adina is born in 1977 to a young single mother but is also an alien sent from planet Cricket Rice (the name is the closest English equivalent apparently and cracked me up every time I read it) to report on humanity and Earth via fax and subliminal instruction. Alien-human aside, Adina is also an awkward, lonely and downright odd child that grows into an awkward, lonely, odd adult and that is what really makes this story shine to me since you don't have to be an alien from planet Cricket Rice to be these things, it's a human condition. While Adina is lonely, she does have some amazing characters/friends in Toni & Dominic and a sometimes difficult but often endearing relationship with her mother. I really enjoyed this book but the writing style is purposely fragmented/off-kilter so it may not work for everyone. Thanks to NetGalley & Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the free e-book.

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BEAUTYLAND is a wild ride. An alien growing up in suburban America, taking notes, reporting back. I loved PARAKEET, and Marie-Helene Bertino has done it again. This novel is hilarious, poignant, heartbreaking. Brisk/well-paced. The prose sings. I need more!

Thanks so much to the publisher for the e-galley!

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I so enjoy this author’s quirky writing. This latest novel is slow to start and is, essentially, plotless. But, the payoff is a good one, if a bit sentimental.

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Marie Helene Bertino always writes such interesting book with so much heart. Adina has been sent to earth to report on the human condition. Having recently read her short fiction collection, Safe As Houses, I believe this novel began as an exploration of this idea in her short story “Sometimes You Break Their Hearts, Sometimes They Break Yours.” Adina communicates with her planet using a fax machine. She in an observer of humans who becomes more human as the novel progresses. Adina acts a mirror reflecting and strange and wonderous and terrible humans can be. Bertino’s writing never fails to make me laugh and feel. Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and to Netgalley for the advanced review copy.

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Thanks to NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for the eARC!

I should be able to use words to describe this book, but I just cannot! This was my first encounter of the most amazing kind of Marie-Helene Bertino's writing. I gobbled this book right up. How to describe it? It's about Adina, the main character, and our following of her journey from childhood to adulthood and her ongoing connection with aliens via a fax machine. Like what? That's the most amazing story plot, in a gist, ever. I loved the storytelling of this coming-of-age story (and beyond) of Adina and how she copes with life. Literally, after I read this, I borrowed PARAKEET and 2AM AT THE CAT'S PAJAMAS to read because I stan Marie-Helene Bertino! If you read any book this year, read BEAUTYLAND!

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