Cover Image: But How Are You, Really

But How Are You, Really

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Member Reviews

This book is incredible. I don't know what Dawson put into the pages of this story, but its addicting and it truly feels like she was writing this story for me, for my 20-something self. The story of Charlotte is so relatable it hurts. Maybe not all of her story, but large swathes of it contain feelings and instances that I think many, if not most, young people have felt. The story of Charlotte is a perfect capture of what it feels like to have grown up in the early to late 2000s. While my own graduating class was, ahem, a bit earlier, than Charlotte's, reading this made me realize how much has really not changed.

Dawson's book is emotionally charged. She has this incredible way of weaving emotions and colors together, utilizing the color wheel/feelings chart (i can't remember the name) that therapists use. she wields this like a sword, cutting through the uncertainty of emotion with vivid color. I could feel and see the emotions that CHarlotte was dealing with, in large part becauase of how Dawson used color. It was visceral.

I was also impressed with how Dawson handled Charlotte's obvious emotional/mental issues. There was a huge chunk of this book that honestly felt like a panic attack waiting to happen, every line haunted by the idea that Charlotte's (we assume) abusive ex-boyfriend could show up at any time. And every time it built to this peak, nothing happened. It is such an interesting technique, that is supremely uncomfortable for those of us who deal with anxiety and panic attacks on any sort of basis. At first I was annoyed by the specter of this character, and then it dawned on me <i>I was supposed to feel this way because Charlotte did</i>. I hope this was Dawson's intention, and if not well, well done anyway!

This book, through Charlotte, also gives a voice to so many young people who simply feel like part of a rat race that we never wanted to be in in the first place. So many of us were fed the lie that we had to go into debt to earn a degree that would guarantee our future. A future that was destroyed by the generations that came before us. Charlotte lives a half life becauase she needs her job, her paycheck, to survive. Literally. She deals with a dead end job and a boss who is HORRIBLE because she needs to. to survive. SO many of us have dealt with this. So many of us never felt like we had a way out.

I wish I had had this book 10 or 15 years ago. I wish I had someone like Reece or Jackie would could tell me I just needed to ask for help. I know this is a work of fiction, but I hope other young people who read it take away this message. They're not alone. They have support. They will survive, even thrive. I have a feeling this story will stick with me for a long time to come.

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Dawson’s debut novel follows Charlotte as she returns back to her Alma mater for her five year college reunion, where she will have to face the ghosts of boyfriends past. During the course of the weekend, Charlotte has to grapple with her unresolved trauma surrounding her time in college and how it continues to shape her adult life, while facing the prospect of rekindling a relationship with the one that got away. Surrounded by a eclectic group of friends (that she definitely hasn’t been avoiding), Charlotte comes to terms with her past and her future possibilities. Dawson wrote this in a way that cut straight to my soul. I saw so much of myself in Charlotte. The way that the queer identities of the characters were handled was not at all ham fisted or an after thought. Their queerness was simply a part of who they are, and the way they were written felt like I knew them. I can’t wait to read what Ella Dawson writes next.

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I enjoyed this book! I like romance books that have a plot beyond just the love story, so this was a good fit for me. I think this would work well for fans of Emily Henry and Ali Hazelwood.

Based on the cover and synopsis, I did expect the romance here to be F/F, so I was thrown off when the main pairing was F/M. There was lots of queer and trans representation among most of the characters, so as a queer reader I enjoyed that a lot. The characters had a diversity of tough life experiences and traumas that they spoke to, as well, which was refreshing.

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I loved reading this. It showed the struggles of what people go through after college and establishing themselves in the world with their career and social life. I thought that Charlie’s journey of healing was very realistically done and shows that you can’t just recovering from abusive relationships over night. It also shows that often, you could get stuck in the same cycle with someone else because it’s what you know. I loved that Reese was patient and understanding with Charlie when Charlie struggled. (We love a king who goes to therapy.) I also loved all the different types of queer representation shown in the book casually. I love that books are now just having queer people are main and side characters casually and without making it a big deal that they are happy and proud of who they are.

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Big thank you to NetGalley for the ARC!

A very classic millennial story in which we follow a very queer Charlotte and her very queer group of friends as they return to their college campus for their 5-year reunion anniversary. Over a long weekend of stressing about her dead-end job with her abusive and incompetent boss blowing up her phone, Charlotte basks in the memory of her blissful college years until an ex from her past shows up and turns things around. 

Charlotte has dated almost everyone in her friend group, and their dynamic is absolutely hilarious and endearing as we dive into her history and her childhood of a not-so-happy or supportive family and upbringing. The quirky group of friends reconnects, and among them is one person in particular who stands out. Sparks fly and Charlotte has one very long yet very short weekend to burn out this past flame. 

I loved this book. It felt very real and wholesome to me. But How Are You Really is the epitome of the millennial experience when it comes to memories of the good old college days and how we want to relive them. The Millenial/GenZ experience of adulthood is so epically portrayed as these young adults return to their college when life is still just starting out. While many folks are struggling to make ends meet others show off their engagement rings and photos of vacations across seas. The insecurities of not having your life together is such a universal young-adult experience, it was healing to be represented in this book. I cried quite a bit reading this. Mostly because I loved it and it just gave me feels but also for the mental health, trauma recovery, and anxiety representation. Trigger warnings for work-setting verbal abuse and harassment, partner verbal abuse and degradation, and depictions of panic attacks and anxiety.

 Although not everything is glory and poppies, the nostalgia of not having responsibilities in a failing economy where the country is divided and queerness isn't such a safe identity to have, this group of friends hides away on this long weekend, ignoring their lives and reliving the past. The friend group is so relatable and quirky in such a fun way, it made me also feel the ache of how easy friendship was before life and work peel you away from all pleasures and enjoyment. It is sweet and nostalgic and very much pulled me back in time as well as making me feel scene as a 20-something just working to survive. 

The romance in this book is something else. Although I can't say the love story was any different from other books I've read, there's something about the author's writing that had me curling my toes and squealing! We have all the college pining and longing from an adult perspective - bordering on spice, definitely open-door sex scenes. This book had me wondering how the author could dropkick the soulmate trope into a contemporary romance.

The unabashed queerness of the book also adds to its uniqueness. With the younger generations feeling freer to express themselves, this group of friends in But How Are You Really pulled at my heartstrings. I absolutely loved this book, and even if you don't necessarily relate to the characters, it is such a millennial/GenZ book, I think it's impossible not to like. There's plenty of drama, and talk about feelings and emotions. We have the supportive friend(s) and estranged parents. A budding romance with an old flame and plenty of anxiety and panic attacks to go around for everyone. Absolutely recommend!

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First off, thank you NetGalley for the ARC. But, this book was not for me. I was not hooked from the beginning. The main character was boring and there was no climax. Just walking down a straight road going nowhere, is basically what I thgouht about this book. The best thing was when Charlotte finally figured out her self worth and quit her job with a jack ass of a boss! I hate writing bad reviews about books because I believe that every author is amazing in their own way, but this book was not a must read in my opinion.

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I had mixed feelings about this book. Charlotte was a likeable and relatable character. She captured the feeling so many millennials feel of being stuck and left behind, unable to find a meaningful career, struggling to pay rent, struggling with past trauma, masking the stress and discontent of daily living. The romance was also fluffy and lovely. I just had trouble connecting. I think a big part of that was Charlotte spends most of the book reminiscing about her time at college, and it was a very specific college experience. I did not have the same kind of live-on-campus, find-your-family college experience that she did and so the reminiscing felt like it halted the story rather than enhanced it. I think, however, a lot of readers could really connect to the story.

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I recently finished this book while it was enjoyable and everything it wasn’t as good as I thought it would be. I didn’t really like the text messages part of the book but I understand that it was a necessity to the story. I’m trying to broaden my bookshelves because I usually read fantasy, horror, and science fiction stories. While it was interesting it just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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I really enjoyed this book! It beautifully captured the universal desire for love and understanding, even when life gets tough. Charlotte's struggles felt incredibly relatable, especially when everything seems to be going wrong. I also appreciated how the author used colors to describe emotions—it added a vivid dimension to the story. The representation of the LGBTQIA+ community was skillfully done. And of course, there's just the right amount of romance to keep things exciting!

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Charlotte is back for her reunion at the Hein University even if she doesn’t want to, but she has to because her horrible, Musk-esque boss will be giving a commencement speech. Hein University was a place where she found a family but also lived through trauma because of a boyfriend. And then there’s Reece whom she ghosted. And there’s the whole fact that she doesn’t want to be around her accomplished friends when her life isn’t what she thought it would be.

I really wanted to like this book more than I did but I found the first half just slow and unnecessarily detailed and the big climax just happening and getting resolved too quickly. Charlotte was fun enough but being in her mind all the time wasn’t a great place to be. And given the reunion takes place in 2018, I thought maybe there’d be an epilogue for 2023 with the 10 year reunion but nothing.

Thank you for the opportunity to read before the publication date!

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Honestly this book really hit a nostalgia button for me. I am not the age of the characters, but I was once. And I recall that period before I hit 30 and it felt like things maybe were coming apart and did I have enough energy to move onto the next thing. Thankfully I did. "But How Are You, Really" follows 27 year old Charlotte Thorne. Charlotte is working at a publication called The Front End and is just hanging on as a personal assistant until she can move on to the art department. When her 5 year college reunion comes around, she ends up going, one to catch up with her friends, but also because her boss will be the keynote speaker. Charlotte though is forced to deal with a lot of things she has avoided over the past several years and is left with dealing with what is she going to do next if things don't work out the way she imagined.

First of all, you are going to want to shake Charlotte. You just are. It was frustrating to read about someone who just kept letting people treat her like crap. I maybe screamed stand up for yourself like three times while reading this book. She also ends up slowly realizing that she's not been a good friend to her best friend Jackie, or any of the other people she met in college who helped her feel like she had a safe space to just be. I loved that Charlotte was bisexual and proud of that and talks about all of her relationships. One of them still affects her, and another does, but in a different way.

I loved this entire book. The romance does not take a backseat. We definitely get a second chance romance here and the sex scenes I thought were hot. But at one point I wanted to tell Charlotte's love interest to run away because she was ticking me off! That's how I know I love a book, I get invested and yell like people can hear me.

The other characters like Jackie, Reece, Garrett, Nina, etc. were fabulous. I loved the fictional Hein where the story takes place and wish I had gone to a college that made all feel welcome. I went to college and grad school in Pennsylvania and the LGBT students were treated like animals in a zoo. Used to piss me off and I am glad I started just hanging out with people I wanted to, instead of being made to feel like I was doing something wrong.

The overall plot and subplots work nicely today. The flow was great and at times I felt Charlotte's anxiety.

The setting of this book is 2018 and now of course I wonder about what happens when we get to the end. How did all of them get through the pandemic? Did new couples stay together? Come apart?

Five stars!

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This one really wasn't for me. I saw the description being a confused bisexual girl navigating her life and attending her college reunion and thought it would be right up my alley. However there were to many pop culture references and the text messages got to be just too much. Plus it felt like Charlotte was just not a character with any spine or major personality. She felt like literally any generic 20 something with no life. And even the end it was hard to root for her. Just a major disappointing read for me.

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As a millennial and someone who has experienced many ups and downs throughout college and afterwards, I truly enjoyed this book. I found Charlotte relatable as she seeks to figure out herself and her life after college and reconnecting at her college reunion. Everyone deserves a group of friends like hers that builds you up and helps you find your way when you’re feeling lost, even if you’re not sure how to ask for help when you need it.

As a voracious reader, I read this book slower than I usually do, but I found myself wanting to savor the storyline and I delayed finishing the book because I didn’t want it to end. The book perfectly captured nostalgia and longing for our past experiences and the struggle of moving forward and figuring out your path when it takes twists and turns you didn’t expect.

This is a great book if you like second chance romance. I really enjoyed the storyline with Charlotte and Reece and it left me wishing for more of what happened with them in the future. I felt like the author did an excellent job describing trauma and abuse and the way it impacts your interactions with friends and loved ones and your ability to connect vs push people away as you process your experiences and learn to trust yourself and your worth again.

I’m so grateful to NetGalley and Penguin House Dutton | Dutton Books for the ARC in exchange for my honest review. I can’t wait for more books in the future by Ella Dawson.

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This is a story of a millennial who has to confront her past while managing her present. I’m not going to lie I had a bit of a hard time getting into this one, but once I did I was able to read and relate to many of the experiences the main character has.

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There is nothing quite like the excitement and dread of a class reunion for a burnt out millennial... wanting to get lost in acting a bit like a kid again, seeing old friends, just tapping out of real life for a little while. Except Charlotte's real life follows her into this reunion and all of her old internal and external monsters come crawling out of their dark corners. Over the course of just three messy days, can Charlotte find herself and the connections with those she once loved again? Maybe even a happily ever after?

It's messy, it's queer, it causes secondhand embarrassment, but also, there's some hope hidden in there if you give it a chance!

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I felt like an ancient Gen Xer reading this book, but still enjoyed it. I just don't feel like I am the target audience for this, but my niece would probably love it. I did really like the chosen family aspect though.

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I liked the premise of this book and found it relatable regarding the messiness of feelings, trauma, and adulthood in general. Charlotte was sometimes annoying/frustrating to read, but she did have a good character arc. For me, the overall dullness of the characters is that we don't experience their backstory with them; their trauma kind of gets dropped out of nowhere when they say it happened. I am not really able to make any comparisons between child-Charlotte, college-Charlotte and current Charlotte. Reading about all these experiences described in that way made it seem like there wasn't any depth and that the characters themselves were one-note. I also wonder about the setting--although it makes sense to have it take place at a college reunion, some of the aspects of the campus setting and college life felt misplaced, if not occasionally cringy. With all that being said, I found the ending to be fulfilling and appreciated the messages about standing up for yourself and learning how to ask for help. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a story about navigating adulthood with a couple spicy scenes mixed in.

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It felt like all of Charlotte’s insecurities and personal struggles were ripped right out of my brain and intrusive thoughts and plastered on the page for me to read.

- the book was heavier than I expected it to be,
but I didn’t dislike it
- there are so many ways to relate not only to the characters in this book but also their lives post graduating college (and Charlotte hating every minute of it)
- Everyone needs a Jackie in their life

The first half of the book was a little hard for me to get into. I really struggled to get into the idea of wanting to return to college every five years to stay in the dorms for a weekend but ultimately stuck around because I got invested in Charlotte’s journey. I wanted to see her happy.

I think anyone who struggled with finding themselves after college or who didn’t find things to be how they expected them to be would enjoy this book. I think it’s also a good book for anyone who believes in second chances. I will be interested to see future books from this author.

Thank you to the publishers for providing me with an ARC of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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A cute romance about a bisexual woman who has to confront her past and present at her 5 year university reunion.

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Charlotte doesn't want to return to Hein for her 5 year college reunion, but has no choice when her overbearing boss is chosen to present the commencement address at graduation. Within a span of 72 hours, readers will get a snippet into Charlotte's past and present, and will come to understand why she is so afraid of the future.

I thought this book was a little slow at first, but as someone who has also been through traumatic issues in college, I felt like I could somewhat relate to how Charlotte was dealing with (or not dealing with) certain situations.

Thank you to PENGUIN GROUP Dutton | Dutton and NetGalley for the eARC!

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