In a debut novel as radiant as it is caustic, a former influencer confronts her past—and takes inventory of the damages that underpin the surface-glamour of social media.

Drug abuse, eating disorder, toxic relationship, sexual assault.

At 19, she was an Instagram celebrity. Now, at 35, she works behind the cosmetic counter at the “black and white store,” peddling anti-aging products to women seeking physical and spiritual transformation. She too is seeking rebirth. She’s about to undergo the high-risk, elective surgery Aesthetica™, a procedure that will reverse all her past plastic surgery procedures, returning her, she hopes, to a truer self. Provided she survives the knife.

But on the eve of the surgery, her traumatic past resurfaces when she is asked to participate in the public takedown of her former manager/boyfriend, who has rebranded himself as a paragon of “woke” masculinity in the post-#MeToo world. With the hours ticking down to her surgery, she must confront the ugly truth about her experiences on and off the Instagram grid.

Propulsive, dark, and moving, Aesthetica is a Veronica for the age of “Instagram face,” delivering a fresh, nuanced examination of feminism, #MeToo, and mother-daughter relationships, all while confronting our collective addiction to followers, filters, and faux realities.

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“In a book about looks, the language is tasked with turning words into images. Rowbottom’s buzzy and exacting vocabulary evokes a picture already resting in our minds and on our newsfeeds . . . Aesthetica asks whether someone devoted to beauty can decide to know who they are, rather than simply change it. Anna is stuck between ways of seeing: viewing one path as necessary and another as indulgence, past and future, eternal and ephemeral. No matter which we choose, we somehow always end up right back where we started, still believing we can somehow make ourselves over.”
– The New York Times Book Review

“This debut novel follows a 35-year-old woman undergoing a surgery to reverse the plastic surgeries she underwent while she was a teenage Instagram influencer living under the thrall of an abusive manager and lover. Allie Rowbottom’s book is as dark as it sounds, but it’s also vital, written with real anger and compassion. One of the best American novels so far about social media, it’s a chilling look at the state of today’s world—both real and virtual, although those boundaries keep blurring.”

“Indispensable . . . The novel is uncanny in its ability to zoom in and lay bare the effects social media has on our perception of youth, beauty, and relevance, but it also raises questions about whether using your body as currency can ever be a form of self-empowerment, the cost of excessive self-promotion, patriarchal power dynamics, and whether the staggering amount of time and money spent to become visually “perfect” is ever really worth it.”
– Glamour

Taste the very first page

I am on my phone, of course I am. But the screams start, sudden as the sound of my own name. I look up. It’s only a group of girls, huddled by the hot tub. They lift arms, devices, as if in prayer; they still themselves before the lens, a ritual. Three flashes and again, they shriek, each omg another post, another like, another love. They are alive in their bodies, together in their bodies; I feel their oneness inside me, like hunger.

The plate before me is empty, though. Just the rind of a bacon cheeseburger to remind me what I ate. On this white daybed. In my bikini, which is also white. Ketchup dripped down by chin, landed on my breasts, smatterings of B-movie blood I wipe with my whole hand, lick clean. I lie back, body bare and distended. I’m satiated, but the feelings always passes and the meal was freighted, like everything today, with the possibility that it might be my last.

I fish a bottle from my black and white striped bag, snap the cap, swallow a pill with spit. I suck a vape to erase the chemical taste, blow cones of watermelon smoke towards the girls. They’re cute, but each one needs a tweak to achieve true …