cover image Rouge


Mona Awad. Simon & Schuster/Rucci, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-1-982169-69-5

Awad (Bunny) satirizes anti-aging beauty regimens in this delightfully twisted fairy tale. Now a dress salesperson in Montreal, 38-year-old Belle spent her teen years in Southern California observing her mother Noelle’s meticulous skin-care routines. Belle sought to replicate those routines, despite Noelle’s assurance that she would never need them because of her Egyptian complexion, inherited from her father. Mother and daughter have long grown distant from each other when Noelle dies from a fall off a cliff near her home. Arriving in San Diego for the funeral, Belle learns Noelle had racked up thousands of dollars in debt and gained a mysterious group of friends in her obsessive pursuit of smooth skin. One night, Belle winds up at a party at Rouge, Noelle’s favorite spa. The dazzling hosts instantly recognize her as their late client’s daughter, and tell her that she’s the perfect candidate for their mysterious treatment (“Self-care is really our only escape from the Abyss,” one of them says). Though the narrative stretches on a bit too long, Awad invents increasingly warped skin-care routines as Belle falls under Rouge’s spell: her face is electrified, her memories are manipulated, and she stares at a jellyfish in a tank. The author’s acerbic wit radiates in this excoriating story of beauty’s ugly side. (Sept.)