You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: A Novel

Image of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: A Novel
Release Date: 
August 25, 2015
Harper Collins
Reviewed by: 

The title of the novel comes from a Charles Atlas slogan. This book is for the reader who enjoys experimental or postmodern fiction. This is a book to think about. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a book for feminists and for Margaret Atwood fans.

The characters are unnamed except for letters (A, B, and C), in an unnamed city, which boasts pretentiousness rather than purposeful crafting, where a store similar to Walmart called Wally employs nameless workers who wear oversized foam faces in order to create homogenization of the store brand.

This book has a strange plot with a heavy dose of post-modernism. A woman known as A lives with her roommate B and boyfriend C, who eventually dumps A when she repeatedly refuses to appear on the reality television show called That’s My Partner!

A eats mostly oranges and popsicles and watches television for the commercials. She is fixated on the cartoon mascot Kandy Kat, a mascot for an entirely chemical dessert, and food—she is perpetually in hunger, but she doesn’t know for what. A works as a proofreader and tries to hide from her roommate, whom she finds difficult to deal with. B. spends a great deal of time in the apartment drinking vodka and wants to be more like A, to the point of stealing her identity and face, even going through her things while A is at work.

The surreal creeps into the story with commercials of women peeling off their faces in skincare ads for beauty and people disappearing forever after wrapping themselves up in white sheets (KKK? Pre-mature burial shrouds?). And the news talks about Disappearing Dad Disorder where middle class men vanish without explanation. Readers who ignore subtext will be left baffled, but a closer look reveals commentary on current-day America.

The prose is fresh and vivid, which Kleeman manages to more or less carry through: “I wanted to eat something real and living, something tough with life”;   “the leaves never fell from the trees but clung there like burnt paper, shriveled and brown . . .”; “His skin was incredibly soft, like had just been unwrapped . . .”.

Eventually A slips into a cult that subsists on Kandy Kakes, the brand with the mascot Kandy Kat, and she finds herself disappearing from the world around her. Kleeman turns her keen eye on the Western obsessions of bingeing and denial, consumerism, and identity. This is a postmodern dystopian fiction from a woman’s perspective about the homogenization of our identities and the industrial complex that encourages subservience.

A is floundering in the world, looking for something more, but unsure of what, much like many women as evidenced by the plethora of ads, groups, and self-help books and retreats calling to those to help them experience something new, break free, live more, etc. There is an underlying feminist narrative about self and ownership; no section explains it best than when she considers sexting her boyfriend: “Talking about my body in any way took me apart.”  

Kleeman has written a dystopian novel, an allegory of the 21st century, with themes of self-image and consumerism, suggesting a keen anxiety specific to the turn of the millennium. While some critics may argue Kleeman’s characters are flat and each character feels like the next—apathetic, listless, but filled with plenty of philosophy and navel-gazing—this is very much an allegory for the current (or perhaps upcoming) generation.