Alexandra Kleeman’s debut novel, “You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine,” follows the character
A. A has a job, roommate, apartment, boyfriend, and looks for fulfillment in all of these. She has the insatiable desire for a life we are all familiar with. She looks for it in her relationships, the food she eats, religion, and in the products her television claims will bring her happiness. In doing so, she is painfully aware of her loss of identity. She knows how replaceable she is to the next girlfriend, consumer, or follower.
Kleeman has a skill for placing the reader in the familiar and vivid headspace of her protagonist. Perhaps this is facilitated by the fact that her three main characters are named only by their first initials: A, B, and C. Despite this untraditional aspect, the novel could also be considered quintessential to other postmodern American classics, dealing with themes of identity, purpose, escapism, and consumerism. While the book has much in common with earlier works, it also has a distinctly generational voice. A is conscious of the skewed messages targeted at her by media and advertisements, yet she has no choice but to be on the receiving end. Despite the extreme lengths she goes through in this story to distance herself from this in influence, she cannot separate herself from this consumer producer relationship.
This speaks volumes to the modern American experience. We are now more then ever mindful of the role of media and consumption in our lives, yet it is a part of us and therefore part of our identity. Kleeman pays more tribute to her generation’s voice by speaking through the perspective of a young woman. The female experience further characterizes issues of self-image, independence, and consumership. Throughout the novel, A is haunted by a television and attractive spokesperson for a beauty product. She understands that while she may want to feel healthy and beautiful as the product advertises, she is also meant to aspire to be the celebrity spokesperson as well. She also notices her roommate, B, looks at her in the same way. She is irreplaceable to B, who imitates her qualities in an a empt to become closer. Soon she feels her individuality threatened by someone so similar. Conversely, her insecurity in her relationship with her boyfriend stems from her feeling of disposability as a partner. She sees that the qualities she possesses could be found in most women and she is therefore replaceable.
“You Too Could Have a Body Like Mine,” gives a fresh take on an American novel while giving insight into the mind of this generation. What starts as a thoughtful reflection on selfhood and happiness becomes a disturbing search for escapism.