Cover Image: Aesthetica

Aesthetica

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Member Reviews

The deal: A former influencer looks back on her life the night before undergoing an experimental surgical procedure called Aesthetica™, which will undo all of her previous work and (hopefully) return her to the face she’d have if she aged naturally.   
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Is it worth it?: Yeah, this was fucking great. I was expecting cringe city, but it’s well-written, unputdownable, and Rowbottom never does that whole pretension/condescension thing others default to when writing unlikable female protagonists. My Year of Rest and Relaxation this is not.
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Pairs well with: Chelsea Bieker, Melissa Broder, Michelle Zauner
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B+
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What a ride this was. That last 25% left me devastated but I couldn’t put it down, couldn’t look away because the writing was so breathtakingly beautiful. 

In Aesthetica, we follow out main character, Anna, in different timelines that alternate throughout the novel and ultimately end up blending and braiding together really nicely at the end. 

In one timeline, we see 19-year-old Anna fresh off of her move from Houston to LA, away from her mother and their complicated, fraught relationship for the first time, as well as her ascension to Instagram fame as she enters a sort of relationship with a 29-year-old man. This timeline is much juicier, more scandalous, and altogether more plot-driven in a way that I found unputdownable. I was fascinated by the ways that Allie Rowbottom explored power dynamics here, especially in the ways we see Anna creating an illusion of control for herself in her relationship and in her pursuit of perceived “beauty” and status. 

In another timeline, we follow a much older Anna who is preparing to undergo Aesthetica, a surgery that will allegedly reverse all of her previous procedures and restore her to her “normal” self. This timeline is a lot more philosophical and meandering, but in these self-reflections, Allie Rowbottom’s writing absolutely shines. She really leans into all of the complicated mess that comes with contending with a past that you’re both somewhat ashamed of and embarrassed by yet also grateful for in certain twisted ways. 

This book really surprised me in a lot of ways, and it’s really unlike anything I’ve ever read before. I can’t wait to read more reviews and listen to interviews closer to its release. 

Thanks to NetGalley and Soho Press for the e-ARC of this book! Out November 2022.
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Thank you for the opportunity to read this book before publication and for Allie Rowbottom's generosity in personally emailing me a copy due to formatting issues. 5 stars for DNF as I am unable to comment on the overall quality of the novel. I was super excited to read this book based on the beautiful cover and synopsis. The premise is topical and fascinating. Unfortunately this book was not for me. I found it overwritten and longwinded. Perhaps I am the wrong audience for this book.
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So happy to have received an ARC for this book—I couldn’t put it down once I picked it up. I read it in just one day. 

While there have been a lot of novels that approach influencer culture (and I’m sure many more to come), most take on a satirical or comedic approach that laughs at anyone who participates in social media. (Of course, there are very few of us who don’t participate in any social media so who are we really laughing at?) 

Rowbottom’s debut will certainly enter the sad girl literary canon (I would be surprised to not see comparisons to Moshfegh or Brodeur) but I really felt that she built an empathetic character who, while not necessarily relatable or likeable, was real. I felt for the main character and understood how she ended up in her situation. It’s a really clever look at influencer culture and what it means for… everyone. Even the observers.
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What a wonderful and confronting debut novel. 

Aesthetica follows the story of a 35 years old woman who used to be a celebrity on social media. After multiple surgeries through her life, she decides to go on with the Aesthetica procedure, a surgery that will supposedly bring her back to her natural self. The night before her appointment, she has to face the darkest memories from her last decades.

This novel is absolutely brilliant, it's confronting and extremely addictive. It truly depicts the realities of social medias and how it affects us in the 21t century. This is the kind of novel that will make you sit down and wonder while having to process what you just read. Even though this is fiction, it can be truly scary to read it under this perspective.

I definitely recommend this novel, what a gem.
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Crazy Ride and I loved every minute of it!
A debut novel for Allie Rowbottom where we meet an unnamed woman (you can call her "Babe" ) who is about to have a procedure called AESTHETICA. 

She flashes back to her late teen years in 2010 when she became an instagram influencer, moved to LA and entered the world of drugs, booze, botox and more.  The surgery she has planned now at 35 is a reversal to bring her skin/face back to what is should be at her age. She is counting the minutes when she gets a call and an opportunity to take down her former boyfriend/manager who was very much involved in the poor choices she made. This novel was fast moving and reminded me of American Psycho!  If you like cultural commentary, love an instagram influencer (bookstagram!) or just want to support a new and amazing debut author, Aesthetica is for you!
  #soho #netgalley #Aesthetica #allierowbottom
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"Every mirror is an illusion. The only one I want is the one my mother offered, a vision of myself through her eyes."

Aesthetica is disturbing, not because it's unrealistic but instead because of how real it is. Rowbottom obviously has thorough understanding of influencer culture, beauty standards, and the damaging pulse of social media obsession. While the writing isn't brilliant, its compulsively readable, and there are moments that really stand out in it's effectiveness. 

The blurb of Aesthetica describing it's focus on the Me Too movement (and taking down a man in power) is not entirely accurate, or at least it's not as much a focus in the novel as it's implied. While there is definitely the painful account of abuse at the hands of powerful men (and especially their exploitation of a young girl hungry for love and acceptance), ultimately what pushes the story forward is the protagonists account of the damage social media, beauty standards, and what the pressures on women will do to someone young and hungry.

I think the discussions on trauma from this sexual exploitation she faces could have been further developed - her survival after sexual abuse is quickly brushed over in its hurry to wrap up the past. There are moments, however, that are painfully realistic (burning showers to peel of a layer off her skin, could a man break in here?). Perhaps too many issues were covered for them all to truly be explored, but this storyline feels too big for it to not have a much larger impact on her choices, and the peace she eventually seeks. Though... I suppose the argument could be made that even as she plans to undo all the surgery, she is still so effected by her body dysmorphia that she believes changing the way she looks again will be what finally helps everything in her life for the better. Whether this is ultimately true, I think, is up to the reader to interpret.
 
What I found most arresting about Aesthetica was the protagonists relationship with her mother, how her descent into obsession and internet validation (and its painful realities) counteracts her slowly losing her mother, and the love from her she was realises she was ultimately searching for. This felt, to me, the most fleshed out aspect of the novel. Simple moments of the protagonist attempting to use her mothers pain for her own benefit (reaching for her phone - perhaps a photo with her sick mother will get her that sponsorship? Perhaps this will dull the hurt?) were the most painfully affective.
Devastating, but this story was never going to be a happy one.
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Was this ever an eye opener!  I have long wondered just how these young people manage to make a sensation of themselves and gather a million followers which gives them the ability to contract for commercial endorsement.  

Following our protagonist’s venture into this world of selfies, agents, chemical enhancements, drugs, parties and … finally … contracts for endorsements was painful for me as a mother and as a woman.  However, the way it was presented, felt absolutely valid.  

As a grandmother I grieve for the way children grow up in today’s world, and I wonder how they manage to “find” themselves and make a life for themselves without the parental leadership and guidance which was so prevalent in my world.

This is not an easy book to read nor to review, but it’s a very, VERY important message for adults, at large, and especially for parents.

I highly recommend Aesthetica and am thankful to NetGalley and the publisher, Soho Press, for this ARC of the book in exchange for my honest review.
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This compelling and thought-provoking novel peels back the layers of both plastic surgery and stepping over others to get to the top of influencer social media heap, as characterized by the idolized imagery that created Instagram stars. 

Step aside selfies, gorgeous backdrops, and glittering moments with other social media stars, and the ugly underbelly and dangerous extremes of what goes into building a social media persona get unflinchingly revealed. Anna at age 19 gets groomed by an unscrupulously talent agent and boyfriend, Jake, to become a high-level Instagram influencer. She’ll do anything and go anywhere to become somebody, and to attract high-paying corporate sponsors. But she mostly goes under the knife of plastic surgeries and to drug-fueled remote parties where she gets both drugged and sexually abused. Anna also abandons her dying Mom and surrogate sister in the process, losing the love and loyalty of both. 

Anna, now 35, alone, and reduced to selling anti-aging cosmetics as a retail saleswoman, has decided to undergo high-risk reconstruction surgery, called “Aesthetica” that promises to reverse all the plastic surgeries and return her to looking as if she’s just aged naturally. For Anna, this comes to represent both a physical and spiritual do-over, and worth the risk of death. At the same time, she’s challenged as part of the feminist #Me-Too movement to share her experiences as other women seek to take down Jake, who’s still posting about his now picture-perfect family life on Instagram. 

Having run an influencer marketing agency for a decade working with the largest U.S. consumer brands, Allie dynamically and astutely captures what can go into building on a top Instagram influencer persona. 

If you want a juicy look at the toxic culture that becoming a social media influencer can entail, this book will both enlighten and terrify with its ringing truths of the devolution and trauma social media ascendancy can bring. 

Thank you to Soho Press and NetGalley for an advanced reader’s copy.
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Well written and timely and dark. With her entire life enmeshed in social media and cosmetic surgery, I just found it too much of a fight to connect to Anna like I wanted to. While I’m sure that was intentional, it made it harder for me to get entirely absorbed in the story.
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I knew I was going to like this one after reading the blurb, and Allie Rowbottom did not let me down. Thank you to Netgalley for the eARC. I'm truly grateful!

What Aesthetica does so well is dissect the main character to such an extent that you understand her almost as well as you understand a close friend. Every action Anna took had a motivation behind it, which I loved.

I had extreme reactions to plot points in this novel -- especially towards the end. Definitely trigger warnings (and possible spoilers here so watch out) for rape and sexual assault.

Though the timeline switches between her older and younger self, there is a solid sense of rhythm that prevents one from being lost in the changes. I really enjoyed that since it really is difficult to achieve.

And the prose!! The prose was wonderful. It's been a long time since I read some proper good writing and I loved it.

Also, that cover!!! It's absolutely gorgeous 😍.
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In a world where social media can become who we are and how the world sees us, the question of how we stay current arises. Plastic surgery and a new creation of self are part of the life of Anna, the now 35 year old woman who was a prime media influencer when she was 19. She had a manager/boyfriend at one point who was viciously abusive and has tried to put that part of her life behind her.

Anna decides to have a risky treatment that will reverse her former surgeries and hopefully return her to her real self. The night before this procedure she receives a request to testify about this former abuser. It throws her back into the trauma she has tried to erase. She then questions all of the decisions of her life and has to decide just who she really is.

The issues in this book are important ones for the world in which we now live. It is quite a read.
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This book made me sad and angry. The story of a former influencer highlights the dangers of exposing one's life (or a fake version of life) to a world where predators lurk and wait for prey to appear in their viewfinder. Anna lived a lonely life with her mother and her best friend in Galveston, Texas. Leah and Anna weren't in the popular group in school but found joy in spending time together and creating fantasy lives they wanted to live in the future. Anna's mother allowed them the freedom to have fun, eat junk food, and stay up all night. When Leah's father is transferred to Australia, Anna is left with nothing but her dreams to be a super start and live a glamorous life in LA.

So at 18, Anna got her ticket to LA and never looked back. She grew that following on Instagram and managed to make a bit of money out of it. When she met Jake, Anna decided that he would be her ticket to fame and riches, but most importantly a million followers on Instagram. It didn't take long for Anna to pick up hints that plastic surgery, beginning with Botox, would help. Just a little here and there. The rest of the story is a nightmare that every mother fears. Anna, at age 35, decides to try a sketchy surgical procedure that will undo all her old procedures. Anna is trying to undo the physical damage with the hope that, somehow, that will help her regain an inner self that she can live with today.

I was sad and angry and disgusted by society and the many male predators that help create women who depend on them for money and fame. This is the same old story but with technology, it has grown exponentially. Allie Rowbottom gave me a shocking dose of what is happening and I appreciate the work she put into this debut novel, and the education she offers those of us who are not in the thick of things.  

Thank you, NetGalley, and the publisher for this ARC.
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I think I am exactly in the intended audience for this book - while it might fall flat for some, being the same age as the main character (in the older timeline), remembering the emergence of social media, the obsession with retouching pictures, making everything look perfect, etc was definitely eerily reminiscent for me. This book did a great job showing both the shallow nature of social media and the much deeper issues behind the scenes simultaneously.
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This book was an experience of great tumult, bending two timelines effectively within a single, disorientating temporal space. Anna's narrative around social media and plastic surgery was underpinned by a linguistic emphasis on ambiguity which served to demonstrate the negative impact of internalising the values of a highly commodified world. Aesthetica challenges the readers certainty of individualism and stability of identity in a manner that is deeply affecting, and manages to show the breath-taking allure of social media's great illusion while simultaneously refusing to romanticise it. There were some small moments of over narration or stylistic inconsistency, but the story is definitely worth a read.
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This book is a reckoning. It'll cause a stir when it comes out for its scathing critique on certain versions of feminism. Great portrayal of a specific point in all young women's lives
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While I loved the idea and the vibe of this book, the execution just wasn't there for me (and I feel like the summary is a little misleading)? I was hoping for a story of a woman after she had this Aesthetica surgery, trying to navigate the world not that she doesn't have her Instagram fame and looks to rely on. Instead, the book focuses more on what got her to the point of wanting the surgery in the first place. 

I did enjoy the writing, just didn't love the story itself. I would probably give something else by Allie Rowbottom a shot! If you're interested in the dark side of IG fame, this might be the right book for you. 

Trigger warnings for sexual assault, drugs, eating disorders...

Thank you to NetGalley and Soho Press for this e-arc in exchange for my honest review.
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Aesthetica is a disguised dystopian novel of the digital variety. In the not too distant future, there's the ability to obtain surgery that reverts previous plastic surgery in favor of a more natural appearance. While following our narrator on her journey of this upcoming procedure, she also examines her past regarding her high social media status in her late teens and early twenties, the prose of the novel having this sedated quality. Rowbottom manages to create stakes that favor the internal: the complex and conflicting feeling the narrator has about her own insecurities relative to her body and her past decisions, inflicting a sense of melancholy in the story that never feels appropriate to label as sadness. Aesthetica is certainly a very lonely book, a far cry from what social media may, on the surface, tell us is far from possible in our digital age.
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beautiful prose! sharp and insightful observations about our cultural addiction to screens and likes! plastic surgery! influencers! mothers and daughter relationships! drugs! WHAT ELSE COULD YOU WANT FROM A BOOK? i inhaled this book like a pile of cocaine at an exclusive insta-brand party. i havent been able to stop thinking about @annawrey/anna wrey/and her story since i finished last night and im sure that will be the case for the days to come. this is the kind of book and crawls inside of you and hunkers down for a while.
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I went into this expecting something of a new weird take on the despondent literary protagonist trope and while I did get something close to that, I found myself preferring present day Anna and wanted to see more of the world she was now trying to find herself in; having already lived through the days of Instagram face and the insidious underbelly of passive influence marketing, I wanted a richer depiction of a society where the Aesthetica procedure exists at all and so initially found tedious the era Anna was looking back on, but I gradually grew to appreciate the poignant, insightful, candid look back on who Anna was trying to be and how the world she once inhabited not only failed to nurture her but preyed on her too. While not necessarily reinventing the wheel, Aesthetica is an absorbing meditation on how glamour and grotesquery live in concert with one another and Allie Rowbottom’s sardonic characterizations and melancholic depictions will stick with me through time.
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