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AESTHETICA by Allie Rowbottom


by Allie Rowbottom

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-641-29400-3
Publisher: Soho

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.