Cover Image: Aesthetica


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Member Reviews

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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This book really captured the insidious side of influencer culture. It's a scathing indictment of the insecurity, abuse and trauma that a young model experiences, amidst a plastic surgery horror show. Harrowing stuff.
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This book was an unexpected love. I couldn't put it down and was on the brink of tears for almost the whole thing. This is beautifully written and a unique story from a unique perspective. I don't think we see enough novels written about the effects of social media on women who are "influencers". I loved how multiple different ideas are covered, mother-daughter relationships, estranged friendships, eating disorders, drug use, sexual assault. You name it this book has it and it's done surprisingly tastefully, not glamourising anything. This book means so much and I think that all young women should read this. I can't speak enough about how perfectly heartbreaking this book is. Just brilliant.
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Where to start? Aesthetica follows Anna, an Instagram-famous #influencer who has recently left Houston to move to LA and chase her dreams of fame. Throughout the novel we watch Anna at two stages in her life: Anna, the 19-year-old rising star on social media, and then 15 years later at 35, Anna who struggles with a journey of reflection and transformation on the eve of her ‘Aesthetica’ surgery. The Aesthetica surgery is described as a highly dangerous operation and promises to use ‘4D technology’ to reverse the plastic surgeries of a patient's past. If this doesn’t really make sense . . . that’s okay – I’m not sure it’s meant to.

Anna’s journey as a rising star sees her leave the security of her mother’s – who now only seems to be able to get in contact with her via comments about how much she has changed on her Instagram (?) – home. During her stay in LA, Anna receives a DM from Jake (alpha man with followers), who quickly becomes her only support in the city, acting as her manager and friend-with-benefits/boyfriend? (I don’t know if I would go as far as saying ‘boyfriend’, but he does pay $9,000 for her boob job, which she didn’t want? So, like, romantic?).

‍‍Anyhow, the novel continues to explore themes around the price of fame and being true to yourself. Our protagonist is not only challenged by her isolation in LA and her estranged childhood best friend living in Australia but also the dwindling health of her mother in Houston.

As the novel explores the two stages in the same timeframe, there’s a clear shift in Anna’s growth and maturity, which speaks to a lot of the experiences we see online today involving catfishing, photo-editing and friendship. It was interesting to read these two experiences at the same time, but it also got confusing as it wasn’t clearly indicated or marked when a shift in time had occurred. 

On this, there were so many parts of the plot that didn’t line up, which really added to a lack of cohesive storytelling that didn’t reflect reality. This can especially be seen in her friend, who travels from Australia to the USA and stays for a shorter period of time then she would’ve been on the plane. And yet we’re meant to believe that this character is struggling on university scholarship money. 

‍‍It must be noted that a large focus of the book is sexual relationships and there should be a huge trigger warning for sexual assault – the book does focus on being taken advantage of by those around you that you trust, with a particular emphasis on keeping up with societal beauty demands (natural vs thick vs slim vs full vs curvy). Ultimately, the book falls into speculation around the social media industry and the #MeToo movement; however, it fails to do this in a comprehensive or considerate way. 

The entire novel seems to be incredibly surface-level, and it does not achieve anything unique or add any additional commentary to the discussions around social media and #MeToo, which is disappointing and made the entire read a lot of work for very little payoff. It also lacked any real analysis of the various parts of Anna’s life that were raised to be of foundational value, like her estranged childhood friend in Australia, her roommates that we never read about again after the first few pages, her relationship with her mother and her health, just to name a few.

‍‍Secondary note, I tend to like reads that stretch the boundaries or norms of what a book can be and achieve (see No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood), but having emojis and hashtags scattered throughout this was incredibly distracting and just removed the sense of depth that the author was trying to achieve. I say this because it wasn’t an occasional use of the form but in replicating a ‘comment section’ you are faced with half a page of random emoji use. I don’t think it added to the value of the story nor created any meaningful understanding of Anna’s situation.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this read to anyone. I think the focus of the novel became unclear as the author tried to creatively add a novel contribution to the discussions around #MeToo and social media. I can see what was trying to be achieved with a work like this, but at times it became painful to read about Anna’s experiences, which created a disconnect between Anna and the audience and made it hard for us to sympathize with her.

Original rating: 1.5 (rounded up to 2 for NetGalley)
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This was an interesting book, but overall I found it pretty depressing. I didn’t like the main character. I was hoping for more of a sci-fi story about the Aesthetica procedure, but that wasn’t a huge part of the book. I’m glad I read it, though.
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Different sort of book but a good one no the less. You almost feel sorry for the main character in this one. Well written and worth a read.
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What a harrowing, disconcerting book. From the depths of current social trends comes Aesthetica, here to disrupt your morning, afternoon, night. I loved this and I cannot stop thinking about it.
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This is a gripping novel, I couldn't put it down from the moment I picked it up. This reads as almost a thriller, but it's also imbued with Allie's signature tenderness and vulnerability. We are attached to Anna from the beginning. It also brings into question - without judgement - if plastic surgery speaks to anti-feminist rhetoric or for it. Rowbottom leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions. Loved it.
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Wow, I finished this book in one sitting. The story is deeply enthralling, culturally relevant, and feels very in line with topics people are discussing now especially surrounding the internet, influencers, sexual violence, and body image. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it, but I will say I sometimes found myself scrambled with the moving back and forth in time. That's not my favorite structure for a book so that's a me issue, but I'm sure plenty of people won't mind it. This book does need a trigger warning for sexual violence which I wish I had known going in.
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A teenage Instagram celebrity grows up to become a washed-up middle-aged woman working a retail job selling beauty products to other women her age. Heavily focused on societal norms and expectations of beauty, this pretty much sums up the novel. Throw in some #metoo introspection and plastic-surgery regrets, and you have a decent setup for what could be an exciting plot.

Unfortunately for me, this story didn’t go where I wanted it or thought it would go. It was pretty vague throughout, only giving snippets of her past life and current life, which made me want more of the specifics of her once bountiful celebrity status. 

I also was a bit underwhelmed with the Aesthetica procedure as it should have been more of the focus and one of the reasons this novel intrigued me in the first place.

Otherwise, an ok read. Not one I would pick up again or buy for a friend, though. 

The publisher provided ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Anna is 35 & reflecting on her life as an Instagram influencer. A life that has left her empty, altered by plastic surgery, and longing for the relationships she jeopardized along the way. Looking for rebirth & new beginnings, Anna turns to a new & high-risk surgery, Aesthetica, which reverses past plastic surgery procedures & returns the patient to their pre-work self. On the night before her surgery Anna receives a message urging her to speak up against her ex-boyfriend/manager/abuser. This message sends her into a spiral of past memories & trauma forcing her to rethink all past decisions.

This was such a new & unique read for me. I have never explored the life of an Instagram model/influencer & the lengths people are willing to go for that blue check mark floored me. Massive parties, addictions, & ruined relationships became Anna’s life when she became involved with known Instagram influencer, Jake. It was sad to watch what Anna felt she had to do to maintain the love of Jake & her followers. 

Motherhood & friendship was also an important aspect of the novel. Anna & her mother were in a constant battle of what feminism means to them, which was an interesting dichotomy. Anna’s mother was also demonized by Anna & the people around her for being concerned for her daughter, which shows the toxic life that Instagram culture can sometimes come with. However, Anna’s relationship with her childhood best friend Leah felt useless at times. I was unsure why this relationship was included at times besides showing how isolating this lifestyle can be. & to be a look into the life Anna could have had. 

I wanted to reach through the book & shake Anna to realize her worth & the relationships she was giving up due to the very real addiction to social media. Anna became so obsessed with how people perceived her online, that she lost sight of the opinions & relationships that really mattered. This book successfully showed how consuming & stripping social media can be. 

Overall, I very much enjoyed her writing & found the premise to be executed well. Important topics such as illness, sexual assault, eating disorders, abuse, addiction, feminism, social media, relationships, & so much more are explored in this novel. What a wonderful fiction debut! Can’t wait to read more from her.

Thank you to Netgalley, Soho Press, & Allie Rowbottom for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Wow. I am left absolutely floored by this novel. It was so much more than I expected on every level (and so much smarter than the flap copy might suggest!). An insightful look into influencer culture, and the lengths one will go to become somebody. Rowbottom's prose is brilliant; at a sentence-level, this novel is sharp, each sentence carrying incredible heft. Though the novel is often funny, the heartbreak and grief greatly outweigh the humor. It is a #mettoo story as well, though that particular thread takes the backseat as Rowbottom is more interested in tackling first and foremost the many other threads to celebrity and beauty culture (she smartly also defies the standard #metoo novel conventions in many ways). The novel reminded me of Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk, though the prose is far more reminiscent of T Kira Madden's memoir. 

Anyway, thanks so much for the e-galley!
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Wow. The fact I choose this book and couldn't stop reading it (finished in a day/night), is what make NetGalley work for authors (as well as readers/book industry). The ability to "try" books that we wouldn't normally seek out. 
Aesthetica is beautifully written. Artful. 
It's the story of status, "influencers," addictions to social media, status, surgery. 
A few sex scenes (which I tend to shy away from in books) - however, tastefully done, and a needed "character" if you will, in the story. 
Our girl Ann grows by the end of the story, but how much? 
It's a warning, a heeding, a tragic tale, but also, a beautiful written book.
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Prediction: Upon it’s release in November Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom is going to become (somewhat ironically) an instant classic in the Hot Girl Fiction genre I keep seeing everyone talk about and I can’t wait for everyone to read it. It feels funny - strange as well as the lol kind of funny - to be sharing my review of this on Instagram but here we are. I loved everything about it and couldn't put it down. I felt like the author went into my brain and pulled out all of the most specific social media morsels and references and put them on the page. You are with our narrator (@annawrey) in every room, in every situation, during every experience, conversation and moment from her rise to near-viral social media status, through her journey of surgical self "improvement", then back down the other side of the hill, coping with loss, reckoning with the life and people she left behind and trying to get herself (her mind, her life and body) back together. You guys, I do not envy influencers who have to fully share themselves - their bodies, their entire lives - online, it seems phony as hell. For anyone who's wondered what even is the deal with these tummy tea endorsements or what goes on in the actual minds of the women paid to surround Dan Bilzerian on his IG feed, this is for you.
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This was a step-outside my comfort zone book for me but boy, was it well written. Brutal, honest, emotional and real. I’ve never read anything before like this. The expectations of Instagram influencers laid bare and a stark reminder to remember what’s right and what what we have.  
Allies writing is exquisite. You’re in her world, smelling the smells and experiencing what is written on the pages. Thank you for this.
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