Image of a hand with painted fingernails holding a jar of cream. Blood is dripping from the hand. Cover blurb says: "'This novel is a blood-stained mirror. What truth will it reflect back to you?'-Rachel Harrison, national bestselling author of Black Sheep." Text says "youthjuice a novel e.k. sathue"


YOUTHJUICE rating: 3 stars ⭐⭐⭐.

HEBE was supposed to give me the heebie-jeebies, but the novel stole its own thunder almost immediately. A slow horror buildup would have been ideal in the gothic horror novel youthjuice by E.K. Sathue (Penguin Random House, June 4, 2024).

Sophia is the new Creative Director for HEBE, a cosmetics company with products that work a bit too well at erasing wrinkles and scars, and a cultish, ageless CEO named Tree who says things like “Call me your True North.” Narcissist much? A motif of Hebe is that looking young and gorgeous and being a good and moral person are one and the same.

Besides spoiling its own shocker, the novel suffers from overwriting with tortured metaphors, and a clumsy dual timeline. Would editors please stop insisting upon dual timelines when they are not working and just add to the readers’ confusion?

The novel nevertheless has a certain propulsion as Sophia is lured into the inner circle of the company and changes herself utterly to fit in, Devil-Wears-Prada style.1“The Devil Wears Prada” is both a 2003 novel by Lauren Weisberger and a 2006 movie starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway that I’ve probably seen five times. Sophia’s characterization could have been stronger, but I did keep reading.

I was satisfied by the ending, with comeuppance for the baddies and a thought-provoking message. Fashion horror and cosmetic horror have enormous potential as a subgenre, to say nothing of cosmetic surgery horror combined with an age-positive and body-positive message. youthjuice felt relevant personally: while I want to be Jamie Lee Curtis and be cool about aging, I found a crepe-y little fold above my right eye last week and flipped out. Despite my best intentions, I don’t wanna go there.

Reading in context:

STARDUST by Neil Gaiman (1999) is the obvious read-alike, with malicious witches who are determined to stay young.

WOMEN ROWING NORTH: NAVIGATING LIFE’S CURRENTS AND FLOURISHING AS WE AGE by Mary Pipher (Bloomsbury, 2019) is a five-star read.

Pretty much anything by Anne Lamott on aging and what she calls the “third third of life” is stellar; you can start with this essay.

What I’m reading right now:

THE DJINN WAITS A HUNDRED YEARS by Shubhnum Khan (Penguin Random House, January 9, 2024).

#youthjuice #EKSathue #horror #gothic #aging #fashion #TheDevilWearsPrada #LaurenWeisberger #Stardust #NeilGaiman #WomenRowingNorth #MaryPipher #AnneLamott