wow. just, wow. I cannot get over this book. I am totally blown away by how unassuming Clark’s book is, resting neatly on the shelf in barns and noble where I purchased it, only to completely mind-fuck me with each page turn.
The Regulars by Georgia Clark
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Feminism, Friendship, Romance, Beauty
Source: Amazon // Goodreads // Barnes and Noble
Final Review 5 out of 5
Picture that episode of Sherlock where the victims of an unknown cause of death are to choose from two pills: one will kill you, the other lets you live. Now, The Regulars is certainly not that dramatic, but the choice of poison is still there. Would you drink a drop of Pretty, a powerful “drug” that once swallowed, turns the user into their most perfect, beautiful, “pretty” self.
Three friends, roommates Evie Selby and Krista Kumar, along with Willow Hendrickson, have been friends since their college days. Naturally living in NYC as three, young, talented, but unrecognized women can be difficult and bills need to be paid. Evie works at Salty, a magazine that seems loosely based on our world’s Cosmo. She is a lowly editor (wait, I want that job), but has dreams of writing big league stories on real women’s issues. Krista is a law-school dropout turned aspiring actress. She cannot seem to catch an acting break though and owes Evie quite a few dollars in bills. Finally, there’s Willow, who actually needs no help financially seeing as her father is a famous movie producer. She, instead, needs help finding her own, personal path of art without the help, and support, of her father.
When Krista is approached by an old classmate, whom she doesn’t recognize, and given a strange purple vial containing a liquid called “Pretty” the three girl’s lives will change. Pretty turns each user into their truest, best, most popular and overall prettiest self. It sheds pounds, gray hairs, unwanted overly large noses, and more. It changes hair color, length and texture, eye color, removes blemishes and even tattoos. It truly creates a person who is worthy of fashion magazines and prom queen titles.
Each woman takes Pretty for a different reason and therefore create their alter-egos. Krista becomes Lenka Penka, a beautiful aspiring actress who needs a new agent and new movie. Evie becomes Chloe Fontaine, a new face for Salty‘s new live show Extra Salty where Evie hopes to influence people politically. And Willow turns into Caroline for the simple reason of trying it. She later develops a method to her madness in using Caroline as a model in her photographs.
Love interests bloom, careers expand, and overall good things happen to those that are pretty, all while the three aren’t really themselves. So why bother going back? Why not have it all? The brains and personality of a Regular but the look and taste of a Pretty? Who’s even stopping them? They are young and hungry women, eager to make a name for themselves in the big city and they have a secret potion that is going to get them there.
Take this fanart “There’s no such thing as ugly”; I understand the message they are trying to send–a classic case of “everyone and everything is beautiful” and while they’re not wrong in wanting to believe that, Clark’s characters echo through my mind.
In a rational world, a hopeful world, there wouldn’t be anything described as ugly, but on a realistic level, there are many, many things holding that description and it doesn’t even have to be women! Certain Lularoe legging patterns, the world’s ugliest dog [okay, but all dogs are cute, right?], insects, deep-sea creatures, those toaster cars, the lovely and inevitable acne, and the list continues. It is horrendous that “ugly” is commonly used to describe people or features of a person whether it be their hair or their personality. So instead of writing another tale about women’s bodies through rose-colored glasses, Clark writes about the good, the bad, and of course, the ugly.
If you are interested in a refreshing tale that will completely take you by surprise, then I suggest you picking up this pink book. Sitting perfectly on the shelf, just like a little jar of Pretty, it screams simple but edgy, it has something to say and boy does Clark say it.
Evie’s, or should I say Chloe’s, makeup artist at Extra Salty, Marcello, asks the question Clark poses:
“Does that annoy you?” Marcello asked, dotting Evie’s skin with foundation. “The fact you’re not in charge of how you look?” (page 256)
Aren’t we all a little annoyed that we can painstakingly work on profiles, lip proportions, chin jut outs on a Sim character, but not on ourselves? Of course, we are! We’re realists! Someone is always going to want bigger boobs, less bushy eyebrows, curlier hair, and the opposites to go with those. So, of course, we’re mad that with a snap of fingers, our face is rid of acne, age spots, dark spots, scars, wrinkles, and anything else women are told is ugly. But of course, we can’t do that. There is no magic pill, serum, or drink; this isn’t Wonderland and we aren’t Alice. We are real and our “ugly” features are real too; they are a part of us. And when we take those away, are we really us anymore?
Evie doesn’t seem to think so when she becomes Chloe Fontaine for the first time, but she brushes it away quickly:
The most unusual inclusions were two subtractions: first, she no longer needed glasses…And second, her tattoo was gone. This struck her as odd: she was fond of her tat, but the ink had spread over the years and was sun-faded. By comparison, the space where it used to be on her forearm resembled pristine carved marble (page 94).
Two vital parts of her are missing: first, her glasses, a necessary accessory that she had been wearing since 10 years old, and then her tattoo, a permanent piece of art that she chose to get for some reason at some point, was now missing. Sure these are minor, and in a way, we have the availability to rid ourselves of poor eyesight (contacts, laser eye surgery) and bad tattoos (tattoo removal i.e. a saw), but Evie didn’t necessarily see either of those features as ugly but the Pretty did and in order for her to become her perfect self, she must be rid of anything ugly–including things that made her feel pretty at one point.
I myself have 5 tattoos, all that have deep meaning to me. The reader doesn’t know what Evie’s tattoo is, but it begs the question of whether or not tattoos are “pretty” enough to be included in someone’s Pretty form. Clearly, Evie’s wasn’t.
Moving on from Evie, Willow/Caroline is probably my favorite character in the story. Although Evie seems to dominate Clark’s world, Willow, to me, seems the most relatable. Evie is a pronounced feminist and woman-rioter. She has short hair, is a blogger, and denounces her Cosmopolitain-like magazine. Krista, on the other hand, is extremely bubbly and overall annoying. She only thinks of herself when taking the Pretty (well, I suppose all three women only think of themselves when taking the Pretty…) and doesn’t seem to want to do any good with it. Finally, there’s Willow, who although she doesn’t use her new beauty for good, per se, the reader watches as Pretty completely shuts her down–a normal reaction I presume to such an addictive and overwhelming drug.
She notes spot on that by becoming Caroline, this alter-ego of herself, she isn’t Willow anymore. It doesn’t bother her that she is no longer the daughter or friend or girlfriend people in her life care for because now she can feel like a “normal” person in the world; her anxiety and depression don’t cripple her on a daily basis–she can create a person who doesn’t have any mental illness at all and this is exactly what she does.
There was something about being Caroline that was so incredibly freeing. Caroline didn’t carry herself with an invisible shield. Sometimes Willow felt like she was always conducting two conversations with the world: the one that was spoken out loud, and the one she carried with her, inside her head. Caroline wasn’t like that. Caroline didn’t hide her body. Caroline didn’t double-check her statements to make sure they sounded smart. Caroline knew how to flirt. Caroline was liberated (page 202-03).
Willow as Caroline, of course, makes mistakes–all of the girls do. She does stupid things, ranging from completely ignoring her two best friends for days on end to flirting with her own boyfriend as a different person. All of this is in the name of art, though. Her photography is what separates her from her father’s Hollywood movies and her friends “adult” careers. She finds peace in her photography, so imagine the inner peace she gets from being Caroline and taking pictures? This all spirals out of control, obviously, and Caroline starts to take over. Who are the girls now without their alter-egos? What if they decide to never be their old selfs again?
“And I know you think makeup sets an unrealistic standard and yadda yadda yadda, but the way I see it, I’m just helping people bring out their inner goddess. I can’t make you beautiful, Chloe. I can just help you see, with a little color here and a little color there, that you are already beautiful” (page 257).
Being Regular wasn’t enough though for the three women and others in New York who are taking Pretty. Though Marcello’s words resonate with all of us, and Evie when he tells her this, their beauty standards are still impeccably high. Once Evie and Krista transform into Chloe and Lenka respectively for the second time, they notice that some features are not as elegant or brilliant as before from their first transformation. Krista/Lenka’s eyes are not as sea-green and Evie/Chloe’s chin juts out a little more than she remembered. Is this the beginning of the Pretty becoming the Regular? If taken so many times, what is to say that the Pretty version completely takes over the Regular version and suddenly the Pretty is actually the Regular version? We are always going to find faults with our faces, bodies, hair. I have days where I feel completely and utterly badass–strutting myself down the streets, feeling unstoppable. But the next day, a simple 16 hours later or so, another woman can feel the same way–strutting down the sidewalk past me–and totally shatter my self-esteem. Why doesn’t my winged eyeliner look that great? Are those honey-colored highlights? I should try that! She worked it so much better than me today, I’m a failure. These feelings flipflop, interchanging and always coming as a surprise. That woman, though, that made me question myself, was probably questioning herself just the other day too. She must have seen another woman online, in a magazine or person, who seemed to have it all and broke her self-confidence in one blink.
We are so hard on ourselves. A war wages before our eyes when we look in the mirror.
Taking Pretty opened up Evie, Krista, and Willow’s eyes and certainly the readers. I did not enter this book expecting such harsh, but at the same time optimistic commentary on women’s bodies in today’s world. Clark’s story is fresh and honest, it is not a simple remedy tale–in fact, indirectly she recommends taking a little dose of Pretty. Without knowing what our most perfect, most pretty self looks like–and thus the disaster that follows with that–how are we to appreciate our true selves?
At first, Evie felt self-conscious of the way her stomach bulged over the satin hot pants’ tiny waistband, the way her arms seemed heavy and thick in the sleeveless gold top. But none of the other early risers even gave her a second look. Not because she didn’t matter, Evie realized. Because in New York, everything was permissible. No one cared what you wore, how you looked. Only you cared about those things.
Her body was back. And she felt good about it (page 363-65).