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Fast-paced and dynamic, this book explores mental health amidst urbanicity through the eyes of an intelligent and funny young woman.

Kathy Tong’s Not-Quite-Supermodel is a very engaging and entertaining novel narrating the story of Alex, a university student working in a grocery store who is scouted by a major modelling agency, and her subsequent life in New York City interacting with endless supermodels, judgemental agents, and social media scrutiny. Characters are three dimensional and well built, and the overall writing style is well pronounced and unique. 

The story starts off with Alex working at Safeway in Vancouver. She is immediately introduced alongside her fears, a sense of humor, her unique friends and family, and normal early twenties goals such as finishing uni and making enough money for tuition. Each character is dynamic and uniquely individualized, and all of them seem just about to leap off the pages. The writing encompasses a lot of slang and is aimed at millennial readers who keep up with social media and additionally with fashion trends and brands. 

Alex’s character is authentic and strongly develops throughout the story, with problems that range from the intense psychological drama which is addressed by what she calls her “plumbaphobia”, to paying her rent, to how she should manage social media hate. She is also bridled by petty jealousy, which is one of the major motivators for her actions. Alex’s honest self-esteem issues are a constant factor in the state of her mental wellbeing, and this is the emotional roller-coaster that paints the story every shade of relatable. Her issues mirror modern problems of not just youth but middle-age as well, and they are handled with skillful writing and come from obvious personal experience. Alex’s story of moving to NYC to “make it” in modelling and fashion is not relatable or usual, but her personal problems and the way in which she deals with them is very approachable. Her sense of humor adds lightness and effortlessness to the telling of the story even if the problems which are addressed become heavy and hard to handle. Tong understands that however personal some problems may seem, most of the time they are universal. In particular, this writing and the characters appeal especially to twenty-something millennials struggling to hold on to themselves in the throes of fast-paced media and urbanicity.

There is a sense of morale sprinkled throughout the book in the shape of mantras, friends, a yoga guru, and particularly in the form of the ending, which seems a stretched and unsubstantial in order to achieve an uplifting closure. The ending is also very abrupt. Alex’s awkwardness and physical clumsiness does on several occasions surpass the average gracelessness to the point where it becomes absurd and annoying and really just interferes with the point of the story. The exaggerated aspects of some parts of the book, such as the aforementioned clumsiness, or the gracefulness of friends, mark the story at some points as unbelievable and unrealistic. The fast ups and downs of Alex’s career prospects and mental wellbeing can at times be a bit exhausting as the story develops, but this also maintains fidelity to real life scenarios. The ending seems to hurry itself up and is unreal when considering how authentic albeit dramatic the rest of the story is.

Nevertheless, qualms are few and far between. The writing is styled, unique, and hugely entertaining. Characters are fun and well structured. Alex is extremely authentic and her problems (and often her worldview) are those shared by many people who are currently facing (and have faced) life as young adults. This book is definitely recommended for those who wish to be entertained and to feel eerily represented in an uncommon, funny, and remarkable story.        

Reviewed by

I am currently a North American Literature PhD expat student in Germany. My specialty is in science fiction, in particular Cli-Fi, Afro/Africanfuturism, posthumanism, terraforming, and space operas. I also read and enjoy contemporary fiction, travelogues, and climate nonfiction. I love painting too.

About the author

Meet Kathy Tong, Author and (not-quite-super-) Model. Kathy was discovered behind the seafood counter at Canada Safeway. But she walked away from all that to take a stab at a modeling career. Not-Quite-Supermodel is Kathy’s juicy first novel. She has no plans to go back to slicing fish…yet. view profile

Published on November 05, 2019

Published by SWP

90000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

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