Cover Image: There Is No Ethan

There Is No Ethan

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I cannot review this book without giving a huge spoiler, so I will be brief.

5 stars for outing this catfish creep. But honestly, the book was repetitive and boring. The real question I wanted to know is WHY the person who did this would do something like this. Just why. Some psychological insight would have been great.

Was this review helpful?

What makes this book particularly stand out, is that the author was one of the victims of online catfishing. The author goes on a quest to find others who were duped by this phony and so this makes a compelling read. It also makes for a very creepy read in the sense that one can see how easily it is to be conned online and to ignore our intuition that something does not seem right (for example, all the times they were supposed to meet up and something came up). I applaud the author and the other women for having the courage to speak out and share details of their online conversations with "Ethan." Looking back, it could be humiliating seeing what happened objectively yet by sharing this, it shows how easily anyone of us could get fooled. This is definitely a cautionary tale so I highly recommend reading it. I do want to say at times, I felt it bogged down once we got to other victim's stories because it felt repetitive in the sense that some of the same tactics were used. But other than that -- definitely worth a read!

Thank you to Netgalley and Grand Central Publishing for an ARC and I voluntarily left this review.

Was this review helpful?

𝗧𝗛𝗘𝗥𝗘 𝗜𝗦 𝗡𝗢 𝗘𝗧𝗛𝗔𝗡 is the riveting true story of three women who fell in love with an Internet predator named Ethan. Anna Akbari is not only one of Ethan's victims but also has a PhD in sociology. She examines the complex emotions involved in his abusive deception and provides fascinating commentary and context about identity and the Internet.

Akbari's narration is stellar, as is Justin Price's as Ethan, and this real-life hoax is twistier than most thrillers. Go in blind and prepare to be shocked.

4.5 stars

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for the copy to review.

Was this review helpful?

A detailed, well-paced, highly relatable Catfish-adjacent tale from online dating's recent past. The book's otherwise pleasing momentum does mean that the author rushes somewhat past larger questions -- what accountability we need from catfishers who didn't technically steal; why the same red flags get ignored over and over again in these situations -- but it wisely doesn't stray out of its own lane.

Was this review helpful?

There Is No Ethan was so compelling, I couldn’t put it down or look away from its extreme digital drama! This is the true story of “how three women caught American’s biggest catfish.”

I have Lots! of thoughts but less is more when it comes to this reading experience, so I’ll only share a few brief comments (and strongly recommend avoiding Google in advance if you plan to read this book)— Early on, I noticed a direct conflict of interest when occupations were mentioned. I had an early suspicion about who Ethan was (I was wrong). As information was revealed, I could only wonder about Ethan’s motives.

I felt for the women who were unknowing participants in Ethan’s charade, yet I was simultaneously astounded by how they kept engaging, despite his cyclical behavior, both online and in failing to follow through with their in-person plans, repeatedly! The events predominately took place between 2008-2013 and I had to frequently remind myself of this as I read the story — Social media and digital technology were not as advanced as they are today.

There Is No Ethan definitely had some surprises and the story leaves readers with a lot to think about and raises ethical questions. A great reminder with the resources available now, to always do your research.

Was this review helpful?

There Is No Ethan is an engrossing, truth is stranger than fiction, page-turner! I was captivated from start to finish.

Was this review helpful?

Sometimes fact is truly stranger than fiction. Author and sociologist Akbari found herself ensnared in a web of emotional manipulation and catastrophic deceit with an online catfish scam. THERE IS NO ETHAN is a part-multimedia juicy dating memoir, part investigative retribution.

Spanning years and decades, charmer “Ethan Schuman” duped multiple accomplished women. Akbari shares text exchanges with Ethan and her journey to connect with other women who also fell under his predatory spell to expose this con. This investigative and bingeable story was a completely engrossing reading experience.

With great insight and vulnerability Akbari explores what led her to be susceptible to a connection with Ethan and the power that loneliness can have. When no crime has technically been committed other than inflicting deep emotional scars, how can these women hold an internet predator accountable? This is an enraging and engrossing story for readers regardless of online dating experience.

-get sucked into true stories that are stranger than fiction
-are willing to withhold judgment for the intelligent women who were duped
-can resist googling spoilers/the real players until you’ve read the end of the book

Many thanks to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for an electronic ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This is one of those "truth is stranger than fiction" wild rides that the current fixation on true crime has come to have us expect but still was surprising! These women never met him in person, realized he was doing this to other women, teamed up and figured out who he was. Who he was ended up being quite surprising! An interesting mix of memoir and sleuthing that kept my interest.

Was this review helpful?

I was absolutely blown away by this book. As a fan of the show Catfish, this ARC immediately intrigued me and I will fully admit that during the first section, I was a little frustrated! I thought "how could you possibly miss all of these red flags, it's so obvious to me that something is wrong," but as the book went on and the other points of view were added, I completely understood. There's something so honest and clear about admitting that a mistake was made while also acknowledging emotional manipulation and by the end, I was just as angry as Anna and the other women featured. I think this is an incredible story about emotions and loss and robbery of time and kindness, but also about how women can take all of that charged-up energy to do something for good and put an end to someone who took advantage of them.

Initial Reaction: 9

Topic: 10

Pace: 8

Style: 9

Enjoyment: 10

46 / 10 = 4.6

Rounded Rating = 4.5

Was this review helpful?

(From Goodreads) There is No Ethan catalogues Akbari's experience as both victim and observer. By looking at the bigger picture—a world where technology mediates our relationships; where words and images are easily manipulated; and where truth, reality, and identity have become slippery terms—Akbari provides an explanation for why these stories matter.

I really, really liked this book. It was unlike anything I've ever read, and I really enjoyed the writing style of the book. Although I did appreciate Anna's perspective, I would have liked to have had more of a secondary psychologist or sociologist opinion, since that is the focus of the book. I think it would have made her perspective and experiences more tangible and reliable to the audience, but I can understand how this was meant to be sort of a diary-style book instead of a tell-all true crime novel.

A critique I have generally is that the chapters were very lengthy, sometimes over thirty minutes (on kindle). There are places where the chapters could have been broken up, or formatted in a completely different way like using a timeline, but I found myself struggling to get through some of the more lengthy chapters.

Was this review helpful?

Well, this is creepy! "There is No Ethan: How Three Women Uncovered America's Biggest Catfish" by Anna Akbari is definitely a cautionary tale!! And.. It's true! This is not fiction.

I wanted to read this because I've had online relationships, and I could be a victim of this kind of scam. I had to read this to learn how to tell and how one can avoid being scammed. It isn't as easy as you would think. Also, I've always been interested in psychology, and I have both a BS and an MA in psychology.

I didn't get approved on Netgalley for the audiobook, so I requested the e-book and got approved right away. I did that even though I hardly ever read books now due to vision problems. I really wanted this one. I'm so glad I read it!!

In this book, you will read the detailed story of the online relationship between Anna A. and Ethan Schumann. Then, you'll read about Ethan's relationship with British Anna. After that, you'll read about Gina's relationship with Ethan. There are several other victim's stories in less detail. Then, the first 3 ladies, Anna, British Anna, and Gina, connect and work together to figure out who Ethan really is.

Ethan never did show up for any scheduled date. He refused to video chat, and he refused to talk on the phone. When the ladies got upset about not meeting him in person, there was always a crisis he used to explain it.. a stabbing, a work crisis, or a medical emergency. Then, he would shame them for not supporting him. Ethan emotionally abused his victims.

Eventually, he is confronted and outed. Yes, you'll find out who Ethan really was. Unfortunately, there's aren't yet any laws against this kind of cyber abuse. There needs to be!!

This is a really important book for all women. I highly recommend it!

Thank you to Netgalley, Grand Central Publishing, and Anne Akbari for providing this e-book in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

In 2011, three successful and highly educated women fell head over heels for the brilliant and charming Ethan Schuman. Unbeknownst to the others, each exchanged countless messages with Ethan, staying up late into the evenings to deepen their connections with this seemingly perfect man. Eventually, they learn Ethan isn’t who he claimed to be, and that is only the beginning of the deception.

What were my initial thoughts?

From the moment I picked up Anna Akbari’s There is No Ethan, I couldn’t put it down. This isn’t the average catfish story. In fact, this began before the debut of the groundbreaking documentary, Catfish. Why are we drawn to stories about con artists (and their victims)? Akbari posits that it’s not schadenfreude (at least not entirely), but rather an innate understanding that we aren’t invincible to manipulators like “Ethan Schuman”. If they can find a vulnerability, they’ll take it. They may already have found a way in to our lives…

If I told you I read the stories of women conned by what would later popularly be called a “catfish”, who would you picture? We tend to imagine someone different from ourselves because it’s uncomfortable to imagine this happening to us. But the women conned by “Ethan Schuman” include a PhD in Sociology, a PhD in psychology (this one hit directly home for me), a successful architect, and an attorney. It includes intelligent, vibrant women with good families, support systems, careers, friends, and lives. The thing that they had in common was an openness to find love, and that is where Ethan found a vulnerability to exploit.

After I started the book, I vaguely remembered the Observer article that came out back in 2014. This book contains much more in-depth information, analysis, and updates on what has happened since 2014. At the time, it seemed novel—catfishing was relatively recent as a concept. There was the famous documentary, plus the story that broke about Notre Dame football player, Manti Te’o. People were just realizing that there was a version of this con that doesn’t go after money or sex, it attacks someone’s emotional well-being. Akbari makes a strong case for the damage this type of con can do.

How did it all start?

The book opens with an email exchange between three women in March of 2011. Anna Akbari and Gina Dallago connected through a friend of Anna’s named Matt, who Gina happened to reach out to about his shared educational history with Ethan Schulman. Matt recognized the questions and the photo from Anna’s request a few months earlier. They eventually find and include another Anna (British Anna, as she is referred to). The emails are brief but powerful. In their brevity the reader can feel the hesitance and guard that these women have up when communicating online with a stranger. This is a stark contrast to the view we see of them just months earlier, before they were cruelly manipulated.

Moving back to December of 2010, Akbari describes first engaging with a handsome, Jewish man named Ethan Schulman in an email exchange through the dating site OkCupid. Over the next six weeks, Akbari describes the extensive amount of communication between herself and Ethan, largely over email, G-chat, or text. Ethan seemed to be available at all times of the day and night. She lost sleep because she was enjoying their conversations so much. Ethan was intelligent and he spoke with elegant and thoughtful prose.

How did it progress so quickly with Anna?

With actual excerpts from their numerous online exchanges, Akbari shows (rather than tells) the reader how someone like Ethan operates and why he is so effective. He is always available, quick on his feet, and has an explanation for everything. The first time he missed their arranged meeting, he came back and described a heartbreaking esophageal cancer diagnosis and stay in the hospital. He described in detail the disease and treatment plans. He made a strong case for not wanting her to meet him in this state. It made sense, all things considered.

Over time, Akbari saw a different side of Ethan. He would flip a single comment on its head, picking a fight and berating her for perceived mistrust or cheating. He’d communicate with her until they came back to the same page, where he said all of the right things and hooked her further in. Those spikes in emotion and the dopamine hit after it is resolved can be like a drug. Ethan would also at times talk extensively about ex-girlfriends (a pattern he repeated with other women and part of how they eventually found one another). One interesting thing was that he would throw in a sexual encounter at a point when they weren’t exclusive, but also were communicating deeply enough for it to hurt. This seemed to only pull them in more, as they didn’t want to lose contact with this person who they connected with.

What was the breaking point?

After several missed connections and red flags piling up, Akbari finally called him out. Show up, or they are done. Ethan was enraged over this, and over Akbari cutting contact. A few days later, he tried to re-engage her. Meanwhile a woman named Gina had been going through an eerily similar experience with Ethan. In an effort to verify if he was who he claimed to be, she reached out to former classmates at the high school and university Ethan graduated from. This person happened to be a friend of Anna’s whom she had reached out to months earlier with the same question. He forwarded Gina’s message, setting off the fuse that would eventually uncover Ethan’s true identity.

From there, the reader gets a front seat to observe how the women connected, discovered Ethan’s true identity, confronted him, and what has transpired since. For the sake of spoilers (though this is already documented online with Ethan’s real identity), I’m going to talk about those parts over on my spoiler-review so I can really get into the person behind the account. (I’m still not over the surprise and horror, if I’m honest)

What did I think overall?

This is a well-crafted, compelling book that hooked me start to finish. Akbari displays both a vulnerability in sharing her story and an ability to offer mostly unbiased analysis on how Ethan and others like him operate (it would be impossible for her to be truly unbiased, but she approaches this with the clinical analysis of a scientist). She doesn’t apologize for believing him or offer excuses, but focuses on the blend of logic, emotion, and believing the best in another person that make good people fall prey to con artists. The text-based exchanges pepper the first two thirds of the book and easily show the reader how an intelligent, social woman could fall victim to Ethan’s tactics.

One aspect that was particularly effective was that she framed the story largely from her own perspective. She begins with how she first met and fell for Ethan, and how their relationship progressed. She describes his turn towards volatility and how it pulled her in. She also describes the oscillation between over-communication and occasional silence. Ethan loved a long-crafted email after a fight. In a way, this was something Akbari liked about him. During her six weeks with Ethan, she heard several times about his British ex-girlfriend, Anna. When she connects with Gina and realizes Ethan told Gina about her, she knew British Anna was real and was able to find her.

After the three confront Ethan, it’s clear that British Anna is having the hardest time. I’ll talk more on that in my spoiler review, but suffice it to say that two and half years being manipulated by someone can be confusing. Even when you know it is all lies, it can be hard to let that connection go. British Anna is an important and heartbreaking example of that. From there, Akbari chronicles how they learned what happened after their confrontation, what led to the 2014 article, and what she has learned since. She ends with a blisteringly provocative discussion of this type of identity hacking and emotional manipulation—at least as damaging as financial manipulation.

Brilliant and gripping!

Was this review helpful?

Wow. This book was an engrossing read, for sure!

I was in my late 20's when the movie Catfish came out, followed by the TV show. While I had never personally been on a dating site, I was in those "prime" dating years when dating sites really started gaining traction and becoming a more common way of meeting people. That said, I actually met my husband via MySpace (a pre-Facebook social media app, for those of you too young to be familiar with it...haha). I remember my mom being very concerned about me meeting someone online because she had seen a news special about "these people that send fake pictures and tell lies about who they are". So catfishing was something that was talked about extensively and stories continually came out about it. Even though so many stories sounded the same, it continued to be shocking and somehow made for riveting TV, because you just couldn't believe these people and their audacity to do what they were doing.

So while this book tackles a pretty grand catfishing scheme, and while the "catfishing" aspect of it is not necessarily anything new, what is shocking is who this person turns out to be. "Ethan" is unlike any "catfisher" I've seen revealed on the TV show or otherwise. No, it is not a celebrity and it's highly unlikely it's someone you've ever heard of. But the profile of this person is vastly different from what you are probably expecting.

I found it so interesting to learn how Ethan tricked and strung along several women; some for only a few weeks, some for a few months, some for several years. The gaslighting, the abuse, the control that Ethan had over these women is astounding. And what is probably the worst part is the emotional upheaval and trauma that the victims feel long after the "relationship" has ended. It's the long-lasting effects that many people don't stop to think about when just feeling the shock value of hearing these stories.

I did think the first half of the book felt a little long. The marketing does describe it as "part memoir'" and I do understand the author's desire to take us through how she, as a professional, intelligent, and successful woman could have been fooled and strung along by Ethan for several months; however, it just felt like it took a long time to get to the meat of the book, especially since we know from the very title that this is a catfishing situation. There's all this buildup, but you know from the start that Ethan is not going to be who he says he is, so after several lengthy chapters about their interactions, I was ready to see the story move forward.

That said, once a few of the other victims are introduced, it does seem to pick up the pace and I do like the way the book progresses from there. The shock value in this book isn't in the catfishing itself (because again, as a reader you know this is the case from the title of the book), but more in the reveal and then how things are handled once the reveal has been made.

This book will make you feel so sad for the victims but also so much anger on their behalf, as well as frustration at the systems that don't do anything to punish the people that do these things. It makes great points about how as a society, we still don't quite know how to tackle these issues of "digital assault" when someone has never physically laid a hand on you, but harmed you just the same.

It's hard because victims of catfishing schemes never truly get justice for what happened to them, but the three women in this book did an incredible job of finding each other, exposing Ethan, and doing what they can to prevent Ethan from harming anyone else.

Thank you to NetGalley and Grand Central Publishing for the e-arc of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

This book is the perfect example of everything millennials have come to learn about the internet- you can never truly know who you are interacting with online. The story mainly follows Akbari’s experience with “Ethan”, a man she met on an internet dating site. Over the course of a few months, Ethan became a major part of Akbari’s life. Every time the two had arranged to met up some sort of emergency came about that would make it impossible to meet but also made it difficult for Akbari to accuse Ethan of lying (because WHO would lie about having cancer??). I found this story particularly interesting as I was an active user on OKCupud during this time, which is where Ethan met a lot of his victims. As someone familiar with the platform, it was easy to really immerse myself in this story and understand how everything came to be. It wasn’t uncommon to talk to somebody online for weeks at a time before meeting up in person so I never questioned why or how any of the victims got so attached that they didn’t just walk away. After suspecting Ethan was lying for quite some time, Akbari ends up getting in touch with two other victims. We learn about “British Anna” and Gina’s stories, which closely mimic Akbari’s. I went into this book completely blind and was so surprised at some of the things that this trio ends up figuring out about “Ethan”. I’m sure many people think they are too smart to ever fall for someone lying about their identity on the internet- but “Ethan” seemingly intentionally chooses people who are incredibly intelligent (either having a PhD or working on one). Is this because “Ethan” wants a challenge or because he is drawn to people with a similar background as him? Everything “Ethan” has ever said quickly becomes a possible clue as to who he really is. This book grabbed my attention quickly and kept me hooked. I found myself on the edge of my seat, waiting for the moment everything would come crashing down. This is a perfect story for anyone from true crime enthusiasts to reality tv show lovers.

Was this review helpful?

Yowza this was a wild ride! This book shares th red differing stories from women who were conned by a man…or not…named Ethan Shuman. The author is one victim and she gives a very detailed account of how she fell for “Ethan”. At certain points I definitely thought how on earth could such a smart woman fall for this?? But then you realize so have countless others. The book is a real page turner and I was on the Edge of my seat once the women begin trying to find out Ethan’s true identity. I’ve since gone down a real catfish rabbit hole. This odd type of con really should be looked at more- it seems so weirdly rampant and obviously pretty easy to pull off. In any case this book was well done and really gets you inside the head of the women victims. Highly recommend.

Was this review helpful?

There is No Ethan is an absolutely compelling book that I read in a day. Anna Akbari met Ethan through an online dating site and while they were both excited to meet in person, things kept happening that kept them apart. Was she being catfished?

Akbari is a sociology professor at NYU so I hoped this would get more into the sociology of online dating and catfishing. However it was still really interesting to hear the story and I also appreciate that it’s written with enough time after the events to get some good updates on what happened.

Thank you to the publisher, Netgalley and for the free ebook and audiobook to review. I listened to the audiobook on a long drive and it made the time fly.

Was this review helpful?

“There Is No Ethan” will be available on June 2, 2024. I would like to thank the publisher and author for providing an Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of this novel via NetGalley.

Rating: 3 stars

It’s hard to believe this story is non-fiction. “There Is No Ethan” follows Anna and her online relationship with a man named Ethan. Ethan seems too good to be true, and it turns out he is. With the help of two other victims of Ethan’s catfish scheme, Anna discovers that the person she has connected with is not a man at all, but a woman named Emily. I felt so angry for the women in this memoir. I cannot imagine the feelings of rage, pain, and distrust that this experience caused the victims.

The writing was excellent, and the story was well told. However, I found it to be somewhat repetitive at times. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime or con artist stories

Was this review helpful?

I quite literally could not put this book down yesterday, and the few times I had to (why does my family need to talk to me?) I couldn't stop thinking about it.

Here is my advice: Go into this book blind, DO NOT GOOGLE this case, just let the book unfold and you will feel the shock the way it was intended.

There is No Ethan is a true crime book written by one of "Ethan's" victims. Ethan targeted intelligent, highly educated, accomplished women and drew them into his emotional web. Anna Akbari was one of those women, and in 2011, she ended up connecting with two others and together they uncovered the truth behind Ethan.

The intriguing thing about this case is that it didn't involve money, it involved emotional catfishing. This is part of what makes this story so captivating. It's more cut and dried when the catfishing involves money or other material things--you get the police involved and if and when you catch the person behind it, you are taken seriously and can possibly do something about it. When it is emotional, all bets are out the window for how it is handled. Some people don't believe you, and even if they do, they think--oh, it's just a relationship, it's not that bad. Even when you report the person to authorities, most if not all will fail to recognize the deep impact this can have on a person's life.

Akbari's thoughtful and emotional writing shines a spotlight on the glaringly abusive nature of this case. I applaud all of these women for having the courage to come forward with their stories and educate readers about different types of catfishing and abuse.

Was this review helpful?

Well, it's been less than 24 hours since I was gifted access to this book (thank you to NetGalley and the publisher), and I devoured it in two sittings. I can say with confidence that even the most twisty of thrillers can't compete with the tension and dramatic irony that Akbari brings to this story.

This is a book about "catfishing," a type of social media scam that involves creating fake identities to deceive strangers, usually in the context of online dating. For several months in 2011, the author was the victim of one such scam; but, she soon uncovered a much larger network of victims -- all female PhDs in their 30s -- not exactly the "easily duped" crowd. Much of the "dialogue" in this story comes from real chat logs between "Ethan" and the women he emotionally manipulates ("torments" would not be hyperbolic), which kept me flying through the pages and brought a level of realism that can't be manufactured. The early chapters, which detail "Ethan's" love-bombing as he hooks his unsuspecting victims, made me all the more sick to my stomach because... this is real.

The "mystery" of who is behind the Ethan hoax is likewise documented in meticulous detail -- and, without giving anything away, the eventual "mask-off" moment was satisfying. In light of the facts discussed in the Afterword, I really hope that this book takes off and gets people talking. It's a perfect book club pick, especially if you enjoy true crime or sociology.

Was this review helpful?

“There Is No Ethan" is both an eye-opener and a page-turner, diving deep into the world of online dating and catfishing. Anna Akbari’s part memoir, part detective story reveals the shocking truth about how easily one can be deceived online.

In 2011, three smart, successful women fell for Ethan Schuman, a man who seemed perfect but was hiding behind a facade of emotional lies. Each woman, caught up in his web, didn’t know about the others. His convincing excuses to avoid video calls and last-minute meetups were accepted because, after all, he wasn’t asking for money, so what could his motive to lie possibly be? Instead, Ethan sought to entangle these women in intensely intimate emotional bonds.

The book follows these women as they independently start noticing cracks in Ethan’s stories and eventually connect with each other to unravel a much bigger deceit. Together, they realize the web of deceit goes much further than they could have imagined and uncover dozens of other victims, showing just how deep and dark the world of catfishing can get. Akbari not only shares her personal ordeal but also paints a broader picture of modern relationships where digital interactions can easily distort reality.

Akbari’s narrative is engaging, pulling you right into the psychological and emotional rollercoaster of her experiences. The book starts with a deep dive into her relationship with Ethan, showing step-by-step how a catfish operates. The latter half feels like a detective story, as the women piece together who Ethan really is.

The book does a great job of showing that anyone can fall prey to such deceit, challenging the stereotype that only the naive get tricked. It’s a stark reminder of the importance of keeping your guard up when forming connections online.

While the book is a gripping read, it could have probed deeper into Ethan’s motivations, which remain somewhat mysterious. Also, the early parts with emails and messages might seem a bit scattered until you get the full picture of the situation.

"There Is No Ethan" is a must-read if you’re into true crime or interested in the psychological aspects of online relationships. It’s a stark warning about the realities of digital dating and the lengths some will go to exploit others. Thanks to Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley for the ARC—this was a captivating read!

Was this review helpful?