Cameron, 18, and her sister Allie, 15, have inherited their father’s large nose. Living in Los Angeles, at the epicenter of the entertainment industry, they are familiar with the social currencies of money and beauty. Their mother, a former film actress, auditioning again after years at home, is exceptionally beautiful. Cameron’s “nose job”—the rhinoplastic surgery her parents arranged for her when she entered high school—has changed her life; it is debatable whether altogether for the better. She is now popular and accepted, but also, after a history of rejection and peers’ mockery, fixated on the kinds of beauty that bring social acceptance. Her interest in photography dovetails with this fascination.

At just the time her parents decide to arrange for a similar “nose job” for Allie, who doesn’t want it, and would rather spend the summer at soccer camp, Cameron decides to use her savings, and her new legal freedom as an 18-year-old, to have breast augmentation. Her parents and most of her friends oppose it, her boyfriend most strenuously, who can’t understand why she would take the risks entailed to do something so clearly unnecessary. As the girls learn, their mother has, at the same time, decided to have a face-lift as a return-to-career move.

Both Cameron and her mother go through the surgery—Cameron at the cost of considerable pain in recovery and aware of the long-term risks and costs. Allie, on the other hand, after coming to know an aging actress who was once a beauty, makes an eleventh-hour decision to refuse surgery and with it, the impossible standards of beauty that seem to her to entrap so many like her sister.


Though the novel holds its strong focus on the social and ethical questions associated with enhancement surgery, the author successfully avoids making the story a simple moral tale. In the girls’ and parents’ various feelings about nose reconstruction, breast augmentation, and face-lifting, she offers fair representations of a range of plausible rationales for such surgeries as well as objections to them. The socio-economic framework of the book is limited; the girls and all their friends inhabit an unusually affluent world where most of their friends have similar options, and the questions raised don’t extend much beyond the immediacies of their own lives and plans (i.e., to matters of medical access for those not so affluent, use of medical resources, etc.). Still, it offers an interesting read, and useful points of departure for discussions of the kinds of surgical options that are becoming more available, somewhat less risky, and more commonly chosen among those who can afford them.


Simon & Schuster

Place Published

New York



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