AESTHETICA

A challenging, compassionate novel about the aftermath of exploitation and packaged youth.

A former Instagram model prepares for a surgery that promises to undo all her previous cosmetic procedures in this dark and poignant debut.

Anna is 35, and she has a face she no longer recognizes. After years of fillers and lifts—not all of which have aged well—she has the opportunity to begin aging naturally again if she goes through with the risky Aesthetica™ procedure. This surgery has its own artificiality; it won’t just remove implants and scar tissue but involves stretching her skin to create the lines that would have presumably formed if Anna hadn’t ever used Botox. Whereas her previous cosmetic procedures brought her closer to a symmetrical, consumable Instagram ideal, Aesthetica™ can restore Anna’s resemblance to her grandmother, a resemblance her mother always cherished. On the eve of the operation, Anna unravels the past that led her here—in particular, the power games and sexual abuse she experienced with her boyfriend and manager, Jake—and the relationships with her mother and her childhood best friend, Leah, she alternately shied away from and chased. Rowbottom’s prose moves back and forth from striking imagery to staccato simplicity (“Jake led me through the club, walking with a languid gait, his shoulders rolled back so that his heart looked open and imperiled. We sat at a sticky banquette”), which gives it an entrancing quality, like the best social media algorithms. While structurally the novel is conventional, tracking a naïve young woman’s entrapment in a sordid world and her reawakening as an adult, Rowbottom’s specificity about one moment in internet culture and the contradictory ideologies about autonomy and desire young women must parse make it worthwhile reading.

A challenging, compassionate novel about the aftermath of exploitation and packaged youth.

Pub Date: Nov. 22, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-641-29400-3

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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