The Regulars

This was a fantastic premise: Three twentysomething girlfriends in New York, with twentysomething-girls-in-the-city problems, receive a bottle of Pretty. One drop of Pretty will turn the  drinker unbelievably gorgeous, which may solve all of of Evie, Krista, and Willow’s problems.

Pretty makes the user violently ill (described in surprisingly graphic detail), and then gorgeous for one week. The girlfriends never try a couple drops of Pretty for endless gorgeousness, not sure why. But as their gorgeous selves, things just keep going right.

This book amused me by subverting the chicklit tropes. Evie stands up to her boss, giving a feminist rant on the grave disservice magazines like Vogue and Cosmo, I mean, like the fictional NYC mag Salty, do to their readers. At the end of this rant, her boss, oddly unaware that this is a ChickLit Moment of Personal Growth, fires her. As a Pretty, Krista becomes close with a handsome superstar, but when she learns his dark secret, she drops him for a physical flaw.

And Willow… I have no idea what was going on with this storyline. She used the Pretty and her knowledge of her boyfriend’s interests to trick him into cheating on her with… herself. And she took photos of herself being Pretty and sad about it. Some of the minor threads, around her father’s art and his much-younger girlfriend were more intriguing than the main storyline, but never fully explored.

Penelope, the girl who first gave them the Pretty, now lives in a penthouse with a handsome husband who knows about the Pretty (and may be taking drops of the The Handsome, it’s never really revealed) and hates seeing her regular face. Penelope is trapped in her trophy wife life, but she shrugs and says she never went to college, so this is the best she could possibly do in New York. After Krista’s worries about school debt and Evie’s worries about her love life, seeing someone who’s capitalized on fake-Pretty to make it is a really cutting and clever moment. Penelope doesn’t tell them where she got the Pretty or what’s in it.

This is never addressed again, so I added it to all the other clues about the Pretty.  One girl notices food tastes better as a Regular. Another wonders if her Pretty eyes were slightly more perfectly symmetrical last week. I eagerly collected clues to figure out how it would work

I read this an ARC on my Kindle, and without seeing how many pages I had left, the ending was particularly abrupt. The origin of the Pretty is never really explained, leaving me with a last-season-of-Lost feeling. None of the clues really meant anything, and the girls’ story arcs wrapped up according to the rules of chicklit. Evie’s blog turns into her full-time work, and Krista gets a new career for which she has shown exactly zero aptitude or interest.

A terribly unsatisfying ending to a book that was almost, but not quite, a magical realism exploring feminism and sexuality.

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