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Fiction Literary


by (author) Mona Awad

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Sep 2023
Literary, Dark Fantasy, Magical Realism
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2023
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    May 2024
    List Price

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A New York Times Editor’s Choice
From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny comes a “Grimm Brothers fairy tale for the modern age” (Good Housekeeping) and “darkly funny horror novel” (NYLON) about a lonely young woman who’s drawn to a cult-like spa in the wake of her mother’s mysterious death. “Surreal, scary and deeply moving—like all the best fairytales” (People).
A Most Anticipated Book of 2023 by Time, Vogue, The Guardian, Goodreads, Bustle, The Millions, LitHub, Good Housekeeping, PureWow, Our Culture Mag, and more!

For as long as she can remember, Belle has been insidiously obsessed with her skin and skincare videos. When her estranged mother Noelle mysteriously dies, Belle finds herself back in Southern California, dealing with her mother’s considerable debts and grappling with lingering questions about her death. The stakes escalate when a strange woman in red appears at the funeral, offering a tantalizing clue about her mother’s demise, followed by a cryptic video about a transformative spa experience. With the help of a pair of red shoes, Belle is lured into the barbed embrace of La Maison de Méduse, the same lavish, culty spa to which her mother was devoted. There, Belle discovers the frightening secret behind her (and her mother’s) obsession with the mirror—and the great shimmering depths (and demons) that lurk on the other side of the glass.

Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut in this surreal descent into the dark side of beauty, envy, grief, and the complicated love between mothers and daughters. With black humor and seductive horror, Rouge explores the cult-like nature of the beauty industry—as well as the danger of internalizing its pitiless gaze. Brimming with California sunshine and blood-red rose petals, Rouge holds up a warped mirror to our relationship with mortality, our collective fixation with the surface, and the wondrous, deep longing that might lie beneath.

About the author

Contributor Notes

MONA AWAD is the author of Rouge, All’s Well, Bunny, and 13 Ways ofLooking at a Fat Girl. Bunny was a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award and the New England Book Award. It was named a Best Book of 2019 by Time, Vogue, and the New York Public Library. It is currently under option for film with Bad Robot Productions. All’s Well was a finalist for a Goodreads Choice Award and longlisted for the International Dublin Award. 13 Ways won the Amazon Best First Novel Award and was shortlisted for the Giller Prize. Rouge is optioned for film with Fremantle. Awad currently teaches fiction in the creative writing program at Syracuse University. She is based in Boston.

Editorial Reviews

A New York Times Editors' Choice
One of:
CBC Books “Best Fiction of 2023”
Electric Lit's “Best Novels of 2023

Praise for Rouge:

“A surrealist take on the myth of Demeter and Persephone. . . . Rouge points to many discomforting truths about being a woman in the 21st century, which can sometimes feel an awful lot like gothic horror. Awad doesn’t let us off the hook in our willingness to consume and be consumed, in our inability to see beyond our glass coffins.”
The New York Times Book Review

“[A] delightfully twisted fairy tale. . . . [Awad]’s acerbic wit radiates in this excoriating story of beauty’s ugly side.”
Publisher's Weekly
“Rouge plays with horror and humor in a surreal, gothic tale about a mother-daughter relationship that is also a biting satire on the beauty industry.”
The Guardian, “Fall’s Most Anticipated Reads”

“Mona Awad’s seductive fourth novel looks at the complicated relationships between mothers, daughters, and their mirrors. . . . [Rouge is a] surreal gothic tale.”
Time, “36 Most Anticipated Books of Fall 2023”

“An edgy fable on the perils of our modern fascination with beauty.”

“Awad’s latest is a dreamy (or perhaps nightmarish) gothic fairy tale about a mother, a daughter, and their shared obsession with their own beauty. Like all of Awad’s novels, it reels you in, shakes your brain until you’re not sure what you’re seeing, and then floats off cackling on a cloud of smoke. Metaphorically, that is. I’d forgive you for not being sure.”
LitHub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2023”

“[A] hypnotic tour de force. . . . Awad approaches the increasingly well-trod ground of sinister wellness gurus with aplomb, creating an atmosphere of creeping discomfort and surreality right from the start. This is the stuff of fairy tales—red shoes, ballrooms, mirrors, and thorns but also sincerity, poignancy, and terror.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Surreal, archetypal, and totally hypnotic.”
Bustle, “The 35 Best New Books of Fall 2023”

“Mona Awad, I will read everything you ever write. She is a writer of unbelievable talent.”

“With Rouge you get everything a Mona Awad novel promises, and more. Sparkling dialogue, unforgettable narrative voice, twisted humour and irony injected with flawless results. This is a wild ride of a book. . . . Fast-paced [and] magical.”
—Jenny Heijun Wills, author of Older Sister. Not Necessarily Related.

“At a time in history when beauty routines drain souls and time, Mona Awad has fashioned a smart, page-turning mystery about a young woman besotted by all things skincare. In elegant prose, Rouge digs through the tormented love that can both bind and estrange a mother and her daughter, and a body from a deeper self. Awad is one of those literary juggernauts to read every word of. Rouge is a triumph, deep and riveting, profound and terrifying. I couldn’t put it down.”
—Mary Karr, New York Times bestselling author of The Liar’s Club and Cherry

Rouge is a fever dream—a brilliant, intense, unforgettable horror story about a beauty cult with a deeply moving mother-daughter story at its core. Mona Awad’s signature and singular imagination and black humor and empathy are on full display here, and her wild-ride of a tale is masterfully grounded in the emotional devastation of childhood and grief. I loved every word of this.”
—Laura Zigman, author of Small World

“There is nobody else like Mona Awad, daring enough to plunge her hands—rings and all—into the viscera of story and discover an unsettling beauty within. Rouge is her most magnetic work yet, a thrilling dystopian romp that knows that beneath the glossy, aspirational veneer of self-care lurks the same old gothic abyss.”
—Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun

“A brilliant, biting critique of western beauty standards as well as a soaring, phantasmagoric, Angela Carter-esque fairy tale about trauma and the loss of self. Rouge is deeply unsettling, funny, obsessive, and unlike anything I've read. A truly mesmerizing read.”
—Paul Tremblay, author of The Cabin at the End of the World and A Head Full of Ghosts

“Unsettling, whimsical, and moving, Rouge is an authentic, innovative kind of narrative magic that’s both surreal and absolute. A striking novel of incandescence and heart.”
—Iain Reid, bestselling author of I’m Thinking of Ending Things and Foe

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