I’ve finished my final book of 2015! What a whirlwind year for reading, but more on that in another post. I chose You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine by Alexandra Kleeman to round out my year. This is Kleeman’s debut novel and it has gotten quite a bit of buzz. My review is below, but I do warn you, spoilers ahead.
This novel has an experimental style, it focuses around the narrator, A, and her relationships with her roommate B and her boyfriend C. A lives in an unnamed American city and we get the feeling that she is a young adult. A’s main activity is watching TV, mainly commercials. This is where we see Kleeman’s great work with detail. She details these commercials so much that they feel like full-length films. It is a huge contrast to the basic details of her characters. This is intentional. It is clear that Kleeman is trying to make a statement about the advertising industry and consumerism.
A wants to be pretty and skinny, and B wants to be A. B reminds me of that horror movie called Roomate where Leighton Meister is so obsessed with Minka Kelly that she tries to become her, and kill her of course. B cuts her her hair like A, wears her makeup and watches her sleep. A doesn’t even want to come home knowing that B will be waiting for her.
C is about as non-descript as a guy can get. He likes to watch TV, that’s about it. He is a fan of a sadistic reality show in which couples must pick out their partner (while blindfolded) through a sea of naked decoys. If he picks wrong, the couple must breakup. A hates the sow but C wants to be on it.
I think Kleeman shines in parts 1 and 2 of this novel which explores A’s relationship with B and C. But part 3 emerges A in a cult which boasts fully artificial food and ‘ghosting’. It also bleeds into communism with everyone required to wear a sheet over their head to be the same. I think this is where Kleeman’s rhetoric takes over the story. She is trying to make a point about consumerism and body image but for me, she loses the story.
A bounces around from wanting to be in this cult whole-heartedly to wanting to remember her past. The story reaches a climax when she is assigned as a decoy on the reality show that her former boyfriend loved so much. Of course the twist we can see a mile away is that C will be the contestant and B is his partner. The emotion in this scene is great but after the scene it fades and the resolution of the story feels rushed and bland.
I think Kleeman created a great satire, I’m just more invested in stories and characters then the over-reaching message. I think her point got in the way of the story in this case but I did still enjoy it.