If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha

two stars blackDNF @ 52%

Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pages: 288
Release Date: April 21, 2020

A riveting debut novel set in contemporary Seoul, Korea, about four young women making their way in a world defined by impossibly high standards of beauty, secret room salons catering to wealthy men, strict social hierarchies, and K-pop fan mania.

“Even as a girl, I knew the only chance I had was to change my face… even before a fortune-teller told me so.”

Kyuri is a heartbreakingly beautiful woman with a hard-won job at a “room salon,” an exclusive bar where she entertains businessmen while they drink. Though she prides herself on her cold, clear-eyed approach to life, an impulsive mistake with a client may come to threaten her livelihood.

Her roomate, Miho, is a talented artist who grew up in an orphanage but won a scholarship to study art in New York. Returning to Korea after college, she finds herself in a precarious relationship with the super-wealthy heir to one of Korea’s biggest companies.

Down the hall in their apartment building lives Ara, a hair stylist for whom two preoccupations sustain her: obsession with a boy-band pop star, and a best friend who is saving up for the extreme plastic surgery that is commonplace.

And Wonna, one floor below, is a newlywed trying to get pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they can afford to raise and educate in the cutthroat economy.

Together, their stories tell a gripping tale that’s seemingly unfamiliar, yet unmistakably universal in the way that their tentative friendships may have to be their saving grace.

I requested to review If I Had Your Face after reading an article reviewing the book. I was unaware of the plastic surgery culture in Korea, so I was excited to learn more about it. Unfortunately, I had to DNF If I Had Your Face at 52% because of the lack of direction and writing.

If I Had Your Face follows four women as they navigate Seoul and its impossible beauty standards. Dangerous plastic surgeries with lengthy recovery times are the goal for many women. These types of surgeries open up a world of possibilities as beauty is highly coveted.

There is little to no direction in If I Had Your Face. I assumed it would focus on the lives of women who had the surgery or were preparing to get the surgery. Though this is the case, the focus is not on the surgery. Instead, If I Had Your Face focuses on everything and anything. There are long tangents about random aspects of their lives that are not all related. This does give context to life in Korea, but it takes up too much space. I found myself skimming through pages of menial conversations about K-pop bands.

As mentioned previously, If I Had Your Face follows four different women. Unfortunately, the writing is flat and bland, so all the narratives read the same. I would be halfway through a chapter and forget whose chapter I was reading. In terms of writing style, there is very little to distinguish the women from each other.

Overall, I wanted to enjoy If I Had Your Face and learn something new. Instead, If I Had Your Face gives readers too much of an intimate look into these women’s lives without focus.

*** I received an ARC via Netgalley for an honest review.

Have you read If I Had Your Face? What did you think?

2 thoughts on “If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha

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