I really don't want to give away too much of this story. It's unique and somewhat disturbing. I realized that I'm so used to typical gender roles that a number of things that happen in this book made me really uncomfortable. And that's incredibly disappointing to me. Gender, now more than ever, is becoming less of an issue in society, but when you take the typical male and female roles and completely switch them, it's amazing how quickly I became uncomfortable. That tells me that perhaps society (and definitely me personally) still has a long way to go before we are able to fully embrace and understand gender and how not everyone identifies with the gender they were assigned, let alone a single-gender or any gender.
In a small village called The Valley of the Rocks, the men try to go about life as a normal society, even though a few years ago all of the women on the planet died. Nate, the storyteller of the group, keeps the memories of the women fresh in the minds of the men. They are the last generation, and they know once they die there will be no one to tell their stories. And then strange mushrooms start growing over the graves of the lost women, and the men will never be the same.
That's all I'm going to say about the plot. I will say that Whiteley boldly took this story in a direction that had previously never occurred to me. This is a horror novel that explores gender roles with sci-fi and fantasy elements. Whiteley unflinchingly explores body reversals too, and I think it's those instances that my brain wanted to reject the most. This book is something that will never happen in the real world, but it still holds a mirror up to society's views on gender. This is a story that is going to stay with me for a long time. It's an extreme case of gender reversal, but one that should be studied as an example of how society is still locked into certain "gender norms".
My edition of this novella also included a short story called Peace, Pipe. This story is mostly science fiction, and I found it just as fascinating as the novella. This story explores a lot of themes, but I think the two most important are isolation and communication. I'm not going to say anything further about it, because there is no explanation on the book, so I went into it knowing absolutely nothing, and I think you should too. Both the novella and the short story are unique and thought-provoking, and I highly recommend them both.
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The women are gone. Every single one. In a small community called The Valley of the Rocks, the men are trying to figure it out. They are trying to continue on and make a life knowing that there will be no new generation. There will be no new life to leave something behind for. Nate, the storyteller of the group, keeps the memories of the women that they all knew alive in the minds of the men. He tries to give the men something to look forward to and storytelling is his passion. Until one day, they find strange yellow mushrooms growing all over the graves of the women and they now have everything to look forward to.
Okay, y’all. THIS BOOK WAS WEIRD. But it was weird in a fantastic way. I can only say so much about the plot without giving spoilers, and you all know how much I dislike spoiler reviews. Because of that, this is going to be a review on the shorter side, but if you read the book and want to talk to me about specific parts, my DMs are open to you, because there are some parts that you’ll probably want to talk about with someone.
Aliya Whiteley took society’s views on gender, gender roles, and power and she made me take a long hard look at them and how I view them. There were a few times in this book where I had to stop and think about how far I still have to go with my views on gender. I love this book for that reason. Not only is it a great story, I think that it will make me grow as a person for the questions it poses.
I’m giving The Beauty 4 stars because I had two issues with this book. My first problem was that I didn’t really connect to any of the characters, though I think the book was written this way on purpose. The main character, in particular, made me want to hit my head against a wall. As the storyteller of the group, he spins a great yarn, but he seems to only want to listen to himself and that confused me. He puts so much stock in listening to the stories of the others so that the group can know about its’ origins, but then when any of them has an issue with something that is happening, he doesn’t care at all if they have any opinions.
My second issue with the book was some of the word choices. I know that word choice doesn’t seem like that big of a deal but it is. There were all of the beautiful descriptions and then out of nowhere there are some really harsh words. There is actually a specific scene I want to quote here, but if I do, then it will be a spoiler. As I said earlier, I’m not about that spoiler life. Just know that there were a few times that I had to go back and reread a sentence to make sure that it said what I thought I had just read.
Those two things really didn’t detract THAT much from the book, because it is still a really unique and interesting story. Aliyah Whitelely is an author I need to read more of ASAP. She has a way of writing that I think a lot of people will love. I would definitely recommend this book to those quiet horror lovers who like a really fresh sci-fi twist. The Beauty is focused on fungus, but there are still a few pretty gory and brutal scenes, so you gore fans won’t be let down. Even if you aren’t into anything I just said, you should still give this book a quick read. Who knows, maybe it will grow on you.
Buy THE BEAUTY by Aliya Whiteley, HERE