Imagine a world where changing your physical body is easy. Want bigger perkier breasts? There is a pill for that. It may have a few side effects, but what doesn't? Want to feel better about yourself? Take Normal! Want to lose weight? Go into a medically induced two week coma and wake up 20 pounds lighter.
Rivka Tadjer's Two Weeks Under takes place in a slightly futuristic New York City where all of these things are possible thanks to the Monarch Corporation and the Monarch Spa. Tadjer, a journalism professor at SUNY New Paltz who has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal Interactive, Business Week, and The Washington Post, specializes in the sociological implications of our techno-centric era. She is interested in how our behavior is changing and the effects of this on privacy, security, and identity. "After they started trying to dose the New York press corps with Anthrax, Tadjer started writing novels."
Two Weeks Under is at heart a murder mystery. As more and more women begin to die from "complications" after their vanity comas, and more and more professional women who take Normal start committing suicide, a few journalists and marketers start to wonder why. One of these is Elana Diamond, a 35 year old PR executive whose long lost sister is the latest coma victim and who has just landed the Monarch Corporation account. As she goes through the coma process and meets all of the Monarch players as well as people close to her sister, Elana gets closer to the reason behind all of the deaths and in the process almost gets killed herself.
It is a compelling thriller with enough sci-fi fantasy aspects to please most mystery and sci fi fans. And the wonderful body acceptance message is clear without being overwhelming. Tadjer wrote this book to combat weightism, our society's unhealthy and crazy obsession with being thin. As she says,
Twenty years ago there was no size zero. Twenty-five years ago there was barely a size 2, and if someone fit in a 2 she was usually what my mother called, in a whisper, "one of those girls with problems." Anorexia and bulimia were just getting popular then among the teenage set. The goal of weight obsessed teens and 20somethings was to fit in a size 4. It was a badge of honor to say you wore a 4. That was bad enough.
Now the badge of honor is to be size zero. How can it sound right to brag about being nothing?
This is a fast paced enjoyable yet scary commentary on our cultural obsession with weight. The scenarios are believable, which makes them even more terrifying. This book is a wake up call and I hope people listen.