Cover Image: Aesthetica


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Member Reviews

I was surprised by how much heart and depth this had. I knew it would be zeitgeisty and I expected it to be fun, but it made me feel a lot of things about identity and family — a lot more than just the self-image I was expecting and kind of dreading. Worth it if you end up buying it just for the cover too :~)
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This is a story about being influenced.

This wasn’t for me, but I absolutely see why it’s been a fit for a lot of readers.   I couldn’t connect to the narrative- although that may have been purposeful?  I’m still pondering if it was intended i I be off putting.

Thank you so much Netgalley & Soho Press!
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Let's face it; not every novel will appeal to your personal tastes as a reader. "Aesthetica" is one that I thought I'd enjoy, but I didn't. I appreciate author Allie Rowbottom's effort in her debut novel, but it comes up short on characters and storyline. Perhaps it's because, at least for me, I'm tired of influencers and their so-called powers.

Protagonist Anna has reached adulthood, and she's ready to undo her past, including all the plastic surgeries she once felt were necessary for success. She wants one last procedure, one called Aesthetica, that will reverse all the previous physical manipulations. But she also has to face the pain she's inflicted on others.

This novel may appeal to readers who have grown up with social media and who are more accepting of it. For me, it's a "thanks, but no thanks!"

Disillusioned with the beauty world, Anna wants to revert to her true self and believes this procedure will set her on that path.

This literary fiction book has beautiful and evocative writing. The author discusses the compulsion to chase more likes, followers, and brand deals when Instagram was at its peak. It explores societal beauty standards, feminine rage, and abuse of power imbalances.
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😎Book Review📸
By: Allie Rowbottom
⭐️⭐️⭐️/3 stars

Eh. I mean I get it....the idea behind this book- the toxicity of social media. I just didn't feel like it delivered as strongly as it could have? Maybe.....?

Nineteen year old, Anna, is determined to be a Instagram star. Moving from Houston, to the starry-eyed sex, drugs and parties of LA, Anna becomes an IG model. Catching the eye of Jake, who becomes her manager/boyfriend, she instantly starts down the road of changing everything about herself. 

Soon the photoshoots start to turn into something more sinister. Drugs leading to blackouts and waking up in pain with no recollection of what happened. Is fame worth this? Anna pulls away from this world and starts to recover from her toxic thinking. 

Now at the age of 35, Anna is about to undergo a procedure called, Aesthetica. This high-risk surgery will reverse all of her past cosmetic surgeries. In doing so, she hopes to revert back to her old self. Basically, the lesson of her story is to not be disillusioned  by the beauty world. Love yourself. 

Published November 22, 2022

Thank you @netgalley and @soho_press for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!
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This book was an interesting take on the influencer world and what happens when trying to be the perfect Instagram model goes too far. I thought the concept was unique and it drew me in, but the execution fell a bit flat. I wanted more exploration of the present day timeline to balance out the time we spent in the past, and I wanted to see the consequences/aftermath of the MC confronting her former manager.
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Aesthetic: Concerned with beauty or the appreciation of beauty; a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement; Giving or designed to give pleasure through beauty; Of pleasing appearance. 

Principles. Guiding. Designed. Pleasure. Notice a pattern? Allie Rowbottom plays host to the exploration of the filthy underbelly of the beauty industry in her debut novel "Aesthetica". Through the eyes of main character Anna, readers are guided through the hills and valleys of an influencer career, stained by the company she chooses. Alternating between the perspectives of past Anna, a young girl, fresh faced and just starting out, endless possibilities ahead of her, and present Anna, a woman wading through various regrets and memories, post career, taking steps now to undo previous damage, steps to becoming ANNA again. Will those steps be enough? As Anna's insecurities and perceived flaws pile up throughout the story, the procedures pile up with them, creating a giant London Bridge of a pedestal only created for one sole purpose: To fall. 

"Aesthetica" is a horror saturated love letter to women. It's written to our very souls in both cautionary and gracefully understanding tones. Rowbottom accurately picks apart the extreme weight felt by trying to climb in an industry dominated by the opinions of strangers. She stretches the boundaries and comfort zones of her readers by presenting hard truths and impossible scenarios. She writes REAL LIFE into "Aesthetica" which is what makes this book so insanely terrifying, always asking WHAT'S NEXT when it can't seem to get much worse. "Aesthetica" is perfect. 

Thanks again to Allie Rowbottom, Soho Press, and Netgalley for an absolutely INCREDIBLE experience. P.S. for all you other creeps like me who can't get enough of the Aesthetica, check out @annawrey . It's a whole A$$ trip!
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A sharp look at influencer culture and female  empowerment, the story is structured in two timelines: 19 year old Anna and 35 year old Anna. There’s some predictable aspects to the storyline and I feel that’s purposeful; younger Anna’s story is SO familiar and that’s part of what makes the latter half of the book  and Anna’s later experiences powerful. 

The writing is really beautiful and oddly enough it creates some distance between the character and the reader. This is a book I actually wish were longer because the ending feels abrupt in many ways and the decisions the character makes don’t quite make sense. 

I am intrigued by this author and would definitely recommend this book, particularly to my students.
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This book ended up being one of my favorite books of 2022. Aesthetica follows Anna through multiple times of her life. We see her as a young woman, fresh out of school and itching to start her life as an influencer. She thinks she has it made when she meets Jake - he has soooo many followers - and he can really set her up for the future lifestyle she deserves. But Instafam isn’t easy and soon Anna realizes just how much of herself she must give up to get those likes and followers. 

Aesthetica really explores the dark side of social media and influencer culture. We live in a world now where it’s not unusual for people to share every aspect of their, but how much of that is real verses curated. The scenes that stick with me the most are Anna’s time with her mom in the hospital when she focuses not on her mother’s illness (it almost doesn’t seem real to her), but on how she can frame the narrative and present it to her followers.

Anna isn’t an incredibly likable main character, but I still felt my heart break for her over and over again. Her relationship with her childhood best friend Leah seemed to act as a tether to her past life before she cared about things like follower and like counts. It helped humanize her more to me and by the end I just wanted Anna to find peace and reclaim her self-worth. I wish we had seen more of her life after the procedure. 

Thank you to Soho Press and NetGalley for a review copy. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
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This book reminded me so much of Black Mirror and I'm here for it! It's a reminder of how social media can control our life, and I truly believe that the intrigue this book has given me is enough to recommend this to everyone. Please give this book a chance!
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What a great book! I love everything by this author and this book was no different! I couldn't put this down and was up all night waiting to see how it ended!
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This book served as a strong reminder to me that much of what I see on social media is a filtered representation of what others want us to see. Also. I wanted to hug my mom after reading this.

Aesthetica is a fairly dark book - it wasn't exactly what I expected. A lot happens to Anna, our main character, who is an Instagram influencer.  Through various timelines, we follow her while she experiences both success and failure in both her personal life and the world of social media.

This one was peculiar. It took me a bit of time to get back into it after I started it and set it aside for a few weeks.
I won't say that I wasn't interested in what Anna was going though, but I could not even pretend to like her or feel a connection to her.

I do believe that the formatting of the text contributed to some of my bewilderment throughout.

I received this ARC from Soho Press (thank you) in exchange for a honest review.

2.5 stars rounded up for NetGalley & Goodreads
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The first half of the book had me hooked and then my interest in it tapered off a lot. I found the ending didn’t really resolve anything and also found Anna’s obsession with that mother and daughter to be a bit cut and dry. It was also weird that they didn’t notice they were being followed. I wished I got to see more of Anna’s reaction to her new face after Aesthetica.
I expected a bit more from this book based on its description, but it wasn’t overall a bad read. I liked the author’s storytelling and voice and the narrative was easily consumable.
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I loved this novel - a perfect blend of suspense and moral inquiry regarding the impact of the internet on our conceptions of selfhood. I also interviewed Allie Rowbottom on my podcast, Reading the Room!
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Although this book has an intriguing storyline and themes, it still didn't grab me as I hoped it would. Maybe it's because Anna's world seems so bleak and it takes a while to form sympathy for her character?

Thirty-five-year-old Anna is sitting by a hotel pool, the day before her surgery. This revolutionary procedure called "aesthetica" will reverse all of the previous plastic surgery she's had done while also making her look as old as she really is. As she sits, she recollects her time as an Instagram model and all the abuse, sexualization, harm, and emotional toil that came with it. Her main relationships are with Jake, her manipulative handler; her feminist mother who's fallen on hard times; and her old best friend Leah, who's anorexic. This novel is an intriguing mix of intense/dark situations; blistering commentary on social media, sexism, fame, and women's bodies; and a not-so likable main character. I couldn't warm to Anna--the old or now version. All the plot points and the character relationships seemed choppy--maybe to reflect the rapid pace & superficiality of social media? I couldn't emotionally connect to these truncated narrative beats, and my enjoyment of this novel suffered for it.
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Wow. What a scathing indictment of Instagram culture, from the filters and fillers to the scramble for numbers, followers, and validation. Aesthetica made me want to quit this app for good. 

On a surface level, this book speaks to how Insta culture has changed over the years–the birth and death of the “influencer,” the back-and-forth shift between polished perfection and natural, the fakery, and the corporate takeover (this app as a storefront).  

MC Anna’s story is raw and dark. It’s easy to see how a naive, insecure teenage character could get sucked into the beauty influencer culture, chasing a manufactured body, collaborations, and fake relationships. Unsurprisingly, managers and partners use and abuse Anna. It’s heartbreaking, but I saw it coming.

In case you wondered, Aesthetica is a cosmetic procedure that claims to undo the effects of all previous plastic surgeries. I wanted more of the present timeline when Anna undergoes Aesthetica. This page-turner could have benefitted from another 50-100 pp. 

This book was well-written, intriguing, and wild in its harshness. I plan to read Rowbottom’s nonfiction release Jello-Girls soon…
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What a wonderful, thoughtful, ORIGINAL, little book. Plus with a gorgeous cover like that, you know I’m picking it up! . 

When Anna was 19, she became a super popular Instagram influenced and became caught up in everything that went with it, including the “look.” After going under the knife and having tons of procedures done in her youth, she’s now 35 and having a new treatment done called Aesthetica that erases all the cosmetic work you’ve ever had done. Right before the surgery she’s asked to help take down her abusive ex-boyfriend who was her manager and “made her” who she was. 

Needless to say, Anna is working on some DEMONS as she prepares to find herself by seeing her face as it would have been and hopefully in turn, seeing herself spiritually and mentally as she would have been before the trauma of her young adulthood. 

Oooh, this book still has me thinking - about obsession with youth, who is Anna’s truest self, would I ever have cosmetic work, why is  influencer culture so enticing to us as a society, is getting work done feminist or anti-feminist or does it depend on your attitude about it? 

One of my favorite things about this book is how well our author portrayed the seductive nature of social media - dopamine high of refreshing and getting likes, the uptick in followers, the careful caption consideration, the filters, the formulaic influencer approach. I’m still in awe of how raw and cringe-y those parts were. 

Like, I’m ready to have a full-on book club discussion about this read. This is Rowbottom’s debut book and man, did she hit it out of the park with this one.
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Aesthetica follows Anna, an instagram influencer in the early 2010s, through her move from Houston to LA, her fall into the world of predatory sponsorships and managers, and her obsession with plastic surgery.  While the book is ostensibly about the dangers of a misogynistic and predatory world, the author doesn't seem to like women very much.  Anna's motivations are totally unclear, making her seem totally vapid and two dimensional.  When terrible things happen to her, it seems like it's her fault and she should have known better.  When tragic things befall her that are completely beyond her control, it seems like they're levied as a punishment.  I don't know if this was a deliberate choice of the author or just poor plot development but it left a very bad taste in my mouth.  

Thanks to NetGalley and SoHo Press for the free ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Aesthetica is a novel I was not expecting. I was mentally prepared for more satire or speculative fiction, and instead found a frank, brutal look at influencer culture, drug use, sexual abuse, and maternal loss. It is timely and hard to read. 
That doesn’t make it bad, but difficult. It is a mirror to instagram, set not in the future, but the very present. The speculative nature exists in the future where all the plastic surgery and botox can be reversed. It is that promise of return, the promise of an aged face our main character holds onto. 
It is a bit Edible Woman, and a bit Fresh, where women are just bodies to be used, by themselves or those gatekeepers to fame and fortune. The all too familiar buzz of the phone, the buzz of likes, and the buzz from the drugs is all blended together to paint a portrait of Dorian Gray in reverse.
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Aesthetica is like if Charles Bukowski had written Valley of the Dolls for the influencer age.

Thank you to Soho Press and NetGalley for sending me this book for consideration. All opinions are my own.
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I loved this. A great exploration of current influencer culture and a gripping story. I loved the protagonist, she was interesting and nuanced and empathetic. Stunning work.
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