Rouge by Mona Awad | Book Review

I love me a weird book and this is a weird book!

Rouge by Mona Awad

Released September 2023

Source: Received for Review Consideration

Goodreads | Amazon

From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny comes a horror-tinted, gothic fairy tale about a lonely dress shop clerk whose mother’s unexpected death sends her down a treacherous path in pursuit of youth and beauty. Can she escape her mother’s fate—and find a connection that is more than skin deep?

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.

My 2 Cents for Free!

I’ve read a few fictional books recently that take the dangers of the “wellness” industry to extremes and I’m kind of loving the recent genre pushback against the predatory beauty industry that profits by making people feel like absolute shit about themselves. Natural Beauty by Ling Ling Huang, Aesthetica by Allie Rowbottom and 9 Perfect Strangers (I’ve only seen the tv adaptation which was depressing but also amazing) are some other recent pieces that tackle this subgenre. Rouge, with its dark fairytale feels and exquisitely painted mother/daughter issues, is my favorite so far.

It’s very much a sister book to Awad’s book Bunny. I’m guessing if you loved Bunny for all of its WTFery and weirdness, you’re going to love Rouge probably just as much or maybe even more. Who am I to say? It’s grounded in realism while it manages to wrap itself in a dreamlike aura (or nightmare depending on your POV) and it bounces between the two until they start to merge with an almost upsetting, off-kilter feeling that kept me on edge throughout, sort of like a David Lynchscape. It’s called “seductive horror” somewhere on the cover of my book and that’s an accurate description. You’ll either be seduced by it or you won’t. I love this kind of stuff but I know it’s not for everyone.

Mirabelle has always had a difficult relationship with her beautiful and desperately unhappy mother. When her mother dies under mysterious circumstances Mira must face down her past and look deeply into her mother’s faults as well as her own as she closes out her mother's affairs. She puts on her mama’s red shoes which lead her straight to a strange beauty treatment center run by exquisitely beautiful and very eccentric wealthy party people. She’s immediately welcomed into their world and offered coveted beauty treatments as life as she knew it slowly unravels because nothing in this world comes without a steep price. It’s a tale drenched in envy, jealousy, neglect, fear, and the dissatisfaction that comes along with wanting something that you simply cannot attain.

This book is effortlessly sinister. Everything about it is unnerving, especially the “Tom Cruise” appearances 😂 and that’s all I’m saying. Read it and freak yourself out. That’s my advice.



  1. Having Tom Cruise show up would be unnerving. lol This sounds creepy.


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