To Be Devoured by Sara Tantlinger
In To Be Devoured, Sara Tantlinger presents a unique protagonist named Andi. You spend the majority of the novella aware that Andi is an unreliable narrator, and Tantlinger uses her protagonist’s unstable worldview to great effect throughout the story. Through Andi, the reader gets to ride shotgun on a descent into madness. As a result, neither Andi nor the reader is entirely sure what has transpired at certain times in this macabre tale.
While I don’t want to go into deep spoilers, I found it interesting that the inciting incident of the novel is the rejection of an artistic present made by Andi. The creation is something anyone who doesn’t love bugs would certainly be repulsed by, and that is the case for Luna, Andi’s girlfriend, but despite knowing that Luna’s reaction to Andi’s present was appropriate, I couldn’t help understanding and feeling for Andi at this moment. Anyone who’s ever created anything and seen it rejected can certainly relate to the protagonist, and while much of what Andi does after this is demented, this first hurt serves to orient the reader in her headspace.
When the truly horrifying points in the story occur, they are driven by Andi’s inability to halt her delusions and Tantlinger’s delightfully repulsive descriptions of Andi devouring twisted meals no one should be hankering after. Ultimately, even though Andi is doing horrible things, you feel like the world has failed Andi because you’re locked in her head. You want her to get to join the vultures she idolizes throughout the story. Giving the entire story’s point of view to Andi is an interesting narrative choice, and I think Tantlinger balances it in such a way that you don’t feel Andi’s actions are ever things you want to happen, but you understand why Andi does them. So, perhaps the scariest part of this novella is that by the end you aren’t as repulsed by Andi as the other characters in the novel.