If I Had Your Face: Valley of the Dolls for the K-pop generation

Book review: Frances Cha takes a soapy glimpse into the dystopian world of beauty and plastic surgery

If I Had Your Face is a gloriously camp celebration of the excesses of a deranged society. Photograph:  Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

If I Had Your Face is a gloriously camp celebration of the excesses of a deranged society. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

I’ve taken to keeping my copy of Frances Cha’s If I Had Your Face in my sock drawer. I just can’t sleep with the frantic buzz coming off it. Who thought it was a good idea to have über-zeitgeisty names like Taylor Jenkins Reid, Helen Oyeyemi and Jia Tolentino plastered on the cover of a book like this? It’s reckless. No single object can handle this amount of raw buzz. My copy is practically hopping.

When you begin reading If I Had Your Face it isn’t difficult to see why it comes garlanded with praise on high from the literati. The novel is set in modern-day Seoul – a hyperreal dystopia of plastic surgery, call girls and a strict social hierarchy. It is a city where beauty rules and young women regularly undergo surgery to look like their idols.

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