IF I HAD YOUR FACE by Frances Cha
Ballantine, April 21, 2020
If I Had Your Face is a searing debut that follows five young women living in the fringes of South Korean society, each struggling to make a living for themselves. Few books that claim to tackle misogyny are as successfully unrelenting as this one is; it’s a bleak read, but also a beautiful one. This seems to be pitched as a book about the Korean beauty industry, which it is and it isn’t; plastic surgery and makeup mostly litter the background of a couple of the narratives, as Cha focuses instead on the women who are actively harmed by cruel and unrealistic beauty standards.
This book’s main asset has to be the characters: it’s also been a while since I’ve read anything with characters this convincing. Of the five protagonists, four of them alternate first person point-of-view chapters, and each of their voices is so distinctive I never had trouble remembering whose head I was inhabiting, which tends to be a common pitfall of similarly structured fiction.
Narratively, this falls a bit short; it wraps up rather quickly and at the point where it ends, you feel like it could keep going for at least another 150 pages. One of the characters’ arcs felt unfinished to me. And a few of the book’s key events feel rushed, even before the end. But despite that, my impression of this book is largely favorable. I don’t think I’ll forget this in a hurry, and I can’t wait for whatever Frances Cha does next.
Thank you to Netgalley and Ballantine for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.
You can pre-order a copy of If I Had Your Face here on Book Depository.