In cosmetic terms, Huang’s plot needs some light blotting: The novel’s turn into horror feels inevitable and yet still jarring ... Her talents... harmonize most seamlessly when she writes about music, managing the near-impossible feat of crafting descriptions of the compositions that are as airy and adroit as the melodies themselves. And she is at her best when she skewers the narcissistic, corrosive version of self-care that can be mistaken for empowerment.
Huang, an accomplished violinist, brings expertise to her debut ... The novel seamlessly blends SF, literary fiction, suspense, and body horror while also exploring the oppression of the beauty industry and the Chinese immigrant experience in America. The writing is lyrical even when plot events are profoundly tragic, and the protagonist’s journey will captivate readers throughout.
Insidious Western standards, fears about bodily autonomy, and queer desire intersect as Huang’s precise and subtle portrayal of the beauty industry builds to an explosive climax. Alternatingly poignant and deeply unsettling, this is an outstanding first outing for an immensely talented author.
This dystopian horror story poses questions about race, wellness culture, privilege, and beauty, but it struggles to do so in a way that provides deep consideration. A lack of setup makes the story hard to follow; the author rushes key aspects ... Although it will keep the reader guessing, this novel ultimately moves too quickly to provide a satisfactory payoff on the many mysteries it lays out.