Having already won praise from the likes of Sara Shepard (Pretty Little Liars) and Scott Westerfeld (Uglies), The Regulars landed on my desk with a steady stream of admiration to its name. But all it really took for me to instantly warm to this book was the description of it being a ‘Dorian Gray for the Girls generation’. I am that generation and I instantly, inevitably, felt akin to the book’s three twenty-something protagonists.
Evie, Krista and Willow are best friends, all living in New York and facing the typical quarter-life crises many millennials experience: they’re unsatisfied with their unrewarding careers, they’re struggling to make ends meet and can’t make sense of dating in the technological age where everything is done online. Following a series of unfortunate life and romantic events, the three women are presented with an opportunity to turn their lives around, a magic tincture called ‘Pretty’ that promises to make them exactly that.
After umming and ahhing over what the potion could do to their health, and whether it will actually work, the girls individually decide to give it a go. What’s the worst that could happen? Well, the immediate side effects aren’t desirable – hideous stomach cramps, loss of bowel control, purple projectile vomiting – but once that initial by-product is over, the strange essence starts to work its magic. With a single drop, the three regulars transform into jaw-droppingly gorgeous versions of themselves; legs are longer, stomachs are flatter, bums are perkier. And with these sparkly makeovers, the girls are presented with new and wonderful opportunities that weren’t afforded them before.
“The lavender liquid rested on her open palm: Shakespearian folly in a bottle. Intellectually, she knew how flawed a society was that made beauty a value, the value, for women. But could the Pretty make her life better?”
The friends accept these fresh starts with open arms – Evie uses it to make a second impression at work, Krista gets a part in a coveted movie with her childhood crush, and Willow befriends her boyfriend to test whether he’s the type of man to cheat. What starts as an innocent tale of how good looks can open doors, soon takes a much darker, damaging turn. Like Dorian Gray discovered, being pretty comes at a price, and just as it did for Oscar Wilde’s titular character, the gloss begins to fade for the three girls quicker than they could have predicted. Even as their lives start to fall apart and they lose sight of who they are underneath the facade, the girls are drawn to the tincture like a drug, unable to stop taking it.
Smart, saucy and seriously straight talking, Georgia Clark’s The Regulars is a modern day fairy-tale with all the magic of Cinderella and the cringing disasters of Girls. It’s tragically earnest in its honesty about what it’s really like to be a female in her mid-twenties in 2016. Women have insecurities – about work, love, friendships, and the way they look – and sometimes those insecurities get the better of them. If handed the Pretty on a silver platter, could you resist? Would you not like the chance to walk in somebody else’s very beautiful, very flawless shoes for a week?
Taking a leaf out of the Lena Dunham manual, there are cringingly awkward sexual encounters aplenty, and feminist ideology that’ll have you questioning how much beauty dominates our society and how much our own insecurities affect the opportunities we’re presented with in life. Thankfully all this is explored with a hefty dose of humour and literal magic, meaning you’ll be laughing one minute and wincing the next as Evie, Krista and Willow stumble from work disaster to love disaster to the age-old friendship disaster. It’s fun, sassy and more than a little silly, making it the perfect read for anyone who loves Girls and Broad City.
The Regulars was published by Simon & Schuster UK on 11 August 2016.