Cover Image: Aesthetica


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Member Reviews

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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A former influencer decides to undergo a controversial new surgery to undo her years of filler and plastic surgery in search of rebirth and regain her lose of innocence. In her younger years, Anna escapes her tumultuous home life to Los Angeles to become an influencer and is plucked from obscurity by a man, Jake, who becomes her manager and boyfriend. An exploitative relation develops as she’s pressured into plastic surgery, party, and drugs. A compassionate and page-turning exploration around body image and the cost of becoming desirable online. How can you achieve self-actualization while trying to market your own body?
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Using alternating timelines, Aesthetica tells the story of the making of a 19-year-old social media star, via progressively more extreme cosmetic enhancements alongside the story of her eventual unmaking at age 35 using an experimental surgery meant to undo her attempts to prevent aging.  Meanwhile, she reckons with her own exploitation and her complicated feelings about the choices of the women closest to her. It’s a dark, fast read: you’ll finish it in a day but be thinking about it long after. I will recommend to readers of Jessamin Chan’s The School for Good Mothers and Caitlin Barasch’s A Novel Obsession. 
Thank you to Soho Press and NetGalley for a digital review copy.
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Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom is a dual timeline novel that follows the burgeoning career of a 19 year old influencer and her fifteen years later, when she is about to undergo a procedure that is purported to reverse all her prior plastic surgeries. It's a fascinating deep dive into the Instagram influencer lifestyle. Influencers are supposed to look perfect and have enviable lifestyles that seem effortless. Though the narrator seems self-assured and views herself as mature and gaming the system, she falls prey to ways to "enhance" her looks to become more marketable. It was a disturbing look into a world of money and influence that preys on girls with little to no repercussions. It was hard for me to connect with the main character, but the story moves swiftly and kept my attention. I listened to the audiobook which was perfectly narrated by Chelsea Stephens.  

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for providing this ebook/audiobook ARC. All thoughts are my own.
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I found this to be a good debut. The writing was unique and the dark topics covered were handled with care and empathy toward the MC. It was punchy and edgy while also feeling hazy and fractured, like the state of the MC herself. It's a raw take on influencer culture, power, mental health, beauty standards, and family. 

Both compelling and thought-provoking, I found myself reflecting often as I read. Most, if not all, of us have gotten caught up in how many likes or comments we get, no matter what our capacity is on Instagram. It can feel like a game or a puzzle trying to beat or solve the algorithm. It's easy to forget how high the stakes can be and how real, and sometimes dire, the consequences can be. This story reminds us of those realities. The memoir/inner dialogue and dual timeline format made it feel personal and intimate. As a reader you feel Anna's excitement as she rises, exposure when she 'makes it,' and struggle to cope with her life after.

She felt like a modern day Evelyn Hugo in some respects. Anna's desire for power and use of her beauty to get it, overestimation of control she'd have, and underestimation of what she'd sacrifice all reminded me Evelyn's journey.

I also liked that the ending was left fairly open and felt hopeful, but not necessarily happy -- which would've felt too easy. It left me wanting a sequel. You'll have to read it to see what I mean. ;)

The book wasn't without it's flaws, though. The description focuses on the interview request and the procedure but I found them to be quite minor aspects of the book and question how much they were really needed to tell the story. I also wished for more backstory on her relationships with her mom and her friend - both felt a little underdeveloped. I would've accepted a longer book to have more of those aspects. It also felt a bit all over the place at times.
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I loved the concept of this book. As someone who was living in LA in 2017 and very into Instagram at the time, I could certainly relate to the main character (at first). Interesting concept but ultimately predictable and unsatisfying.
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Aesthetica is told in alternating timelines; one following a 19 year old Anna and the lengths she will go to build her Instagram following, and the other, in the near future as a 35 year old women preparing for a risky procedure to undue all of the plastic surgery she had earlier in her life. This book shines a light on the toxicity of influencer culture and anticipates an even scarier future. 

I found both timelines in this story to be incredibly intriguing. In the way that I was slightly horrified but also couldn't look away. This book has very painful themes as we see Anna being taken advantage of and exploited by a man who claims he will help her. We're then faced with the impact of the trauma she experienced as she wanders around in a drug induced stupor in various settings both before and after surgery.  I felt the urge to cringe multiple times while reading. But I also had to acknowledge that this is my generation: the generation focused on collecting likes and followers, instagram filters and botox, permanent makeup, etc. We've all become so distorted in our thinking and our view of ourselves and others. Anna may seem unlikable to many readers but she is many of us. 

I also absolutely loved Rowbottom's writing. However, I would have liked more of this story. I wanted a hundred more pages to dive deeper into the "metoo" component or the grief that Anna experiences. The last chapter is really fascinating and I would have really enjoyed more of this story-line. 

Overall, I am glad I got to read this story and I would definitely recommend it to others. I am eager to read more from this author in the future! 

Thank you to Netgalley and Soho Press for the advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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This is a thoughtful and heartbreaking look at social media, influencers, and the quest for outer beauty. Alternating between the past and the near future, the novel focuses on Anna who meets handsome Jake and is attracted to his influence (and of course his money)! So she turns to Aesthetica where where she gets nipped, tucked, and botoxed within an inch of her life because, hey, beauty sells, right? But the cost is so much more than monetary as she discovers that there is more to life than the proverbial drugs and rock & roll lifestyle so attractive to young hipsters. And that's all you need. This is an incredible debut and I look forward to reading more of Rowbottom's books as she has clear insights into what some people will do for fame, even if it's at the expense of family and friends. Chilling but accurate!
Thanks to NetGalley for this ARC!
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This novel flashes between a woman building herself up as an Instagram model and influencer, getting plastic surgery and fillers and everything in between, and to herself in the future getting a surgery to reverse all of the procedures. 

It’s a commentary on social media and beauty standards today, juxtaposed with a story about the relationship to her body, her mother and the process of aging. It was a quick and interesting read, and I really enjoyed it!
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"I dream, as I often do, of meals I don't mean to eat, drugs I didn't mean to swallow, faceless men I didn't want to f**k. Even in sleep, I open my mouth and scream.”

Anna, a former influencer confronts her past and takes inventory of the damages that underpin the surface-glamour of social media. At 19, she was an Instagram celebrity. Now, at 35, she works behind the cosmetic counter. She too is seeking rebirth. She's about to undergo the high-risk, elective surgery Aesthetica™ a procedure will reverse all her past plastic surgery procedures, returning her, she hopes, to a truer self. With the hours ticking down to her life-threatening surgery, she must confront the ugly truth about her experiences on and off the Instagram grid.

I don’t know how to put into words but this a great debut novel, the writing was perfect, it approached the problem with a very natural and unbiased point of view, it doesn’t blame Anna but shows how and why she sees life as a product to offer to gain a level of ownership of herself but as we all know not everything is rose colored and it backfired in a very repulsive way. 

The lesson is clear here, social media is not what it seems, the more perfect the picture the most unrealistic it becomes. I used to follow a lot of influencers back in the day but as time went by their lives felt more fake and produced, and i felt it affecting my way to see my own life and how sad and depressed i felt for know looking like them or having what they have. It’s good to realize what the problem is and put an end to it form the root. Let’s try to live more naturally, more real. That’s the new trend. 


Thank you to Soho Press for providing an arc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Aesthetica tells the story of Anna, who at 19 tries to become a social media influencer as well as Anna at 35 who is reflecting on her life on the eve of a high risk surgery. Overall, the premise is interesting but I have mixed feelings about the execution. At times the pacing was a bit confusing and, at some points, I lost track of the timeline. 
Thanks to Netgalley and Soho Press for the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
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Just finished this book and I honestly can’t decide if I liked it or not. The premise is new and almost Brett Easton Ellis for the instagram age as told by a woman. The book is pretty subversive and follows a woman at two stages of her life. Early on she’s trying to become an instagram influencer. She’s plumping and implanting and sculpting to become what the camera and fans want. She also meets a guy named jake who becomes her boyfriend/manager and falls into some dark parties and circumstances while he “takes care” of her. Present day She decides to go through a cosmetic procedure to undo all the plastic. The book is definitely a bit stream of thought and a lot of times I wasn’t totally sure what was happening. But i also generally like sort of experimental and dark types of books like this one. 3.5/4 ish stars
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The feeling you get when your first book of the month is a MASSIVE HIT and you had no expectations.

Woah.  Allie Rowbottom you made magic with this your debut novel.  It had me on the edge of my seat and made me all kinds of uncomfortable.  This is not a thriller folks.  I’d say its lit fiction about growing up in the Instagram age.

The book follows an an unnamed narrator at two time periods in her life.

At 19, she was an Instagram celebrity focused on likes and hearts and the perfect look.  The book alternates between the Instagram celebrity years and her life at 35.  This part of the book made me so nervous watching her disassemble herself to reflect a perfect ideal to please her boyfriend/ “manager” and to obtain what she thinks is her “power.”

At 35, she’s staying at a Barbie themed hotel and works selling makeup and anti-aging products at the “black and white store.”  She’s at the hotel getting ready to undergo the high-risk, elective surgery Aesthetica™, which will restore her face into a normal 35-year-old face with out the filers, implants, botox, and other cosmetic procedures.  She wants to find her true self.  But can she with all that has been done?  On top of that, the Vanity Fair keeps calling to get her to help with an expose on her former boyfriend/manager who has rebranded himself as a family man.

Lots of topics here — mothers and daughters; friendships; power; metoo.

At bottom this all put me on edge.  Raising a confident, independent girl in today’s society is so difficult.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️. 5

Thank you @netgalley and @sohopress for a free e-arc in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.
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This is a pretty dark read, but it's got such great messaging about the internal and external harm that social media obsession can have. It dives into influencer culture, abusive relationships, mother-daughter bonds, and the importance of friendship. I liked the way the author wrote.
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I started this book on my lunch break and I HATED the first page. I didn't like the writing style, I didn't like the stress on looks, but I said I would give myself a chapter to get into it. Next thing I know, I put off doing work to finish this book. I mostly choose books based on the cover. So I went into this one not knowing the plot and it was fully focused on looks and body image, which threw me off at the beginning. I grew to like the writing style, or maybe it was just a bad first impression, but it grew on me. Which is interesting because this book is all about that good first impression on instagram. I liked the different POVs, it added depth to the story. I also really liked how things weren't gone into full details. And by that I mean, you never really got deep into Josh and Anna's relationship, they had sex, he paid for things, the end. It was just glossing over things, a little more character development and getting into their thoughts and feelings may have added to the book, but I also appreciate that they didn't do that because it could have become a really heavy book very quickly with that added layer. Overall I really enjoyed this one, it is super relevant, and I'm excited to read more by this author in the future.
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