Rouge / Mona Awad / Penguin Random House, September 12, 2023 – $34 (Hardcover)

Mona Awad’s Rouge is obsessed with reflections— self-perceptions and the distortions that arise when we stare too long into ourselves. The novel centers around Mirabelle, a skin-care obsessed young woman dealing with the mysterious loss of her alluring mother, and seems to move in the same way that a hall of mirrors does: events and images spin around Mirabelle, never grounded in a concrete sequence, rather surreal and strangely saccharine. Like Awad’s Bunny, the prose at times seem a bit heavy-handed— references to fairy tales and myths seem to diverge without always shedding new light on the source material. Yet these moments only add to a sense of the novel as constantly lurching forward, grasping at references from Greek myths to skincare youtube videos only to magnify their strangeness. The writer delights in the innate comedy of Mirabelle’s obsession with these cultural phenomena, her extreme reliance on lists upon lists of exfoliants, moisturizers, and serums not merely symptoms of her mania but integral connections between her body and the outside world. For the reader, these moments are at once alien and uncomfortably familiar: indeed, perhaps it is only in Mirabelle’s most compulsive moments that the reader identifies their own desire for beauty and acceptance reflected.

–Gabrielle Pereira