Am I Beautiful?

Am I Beautiful? by Jon Athan

Adam Miller, a successful marketing manager at a travel agency, visits Tokyo, Japan on business. During his trip, he has a one-night stand with a young Japanese woman, Miki Someya. But Miki latches onto him. She follows him—stalks him—through the streets of Tokyo, professing her love and begging for his. Adam manages to avoid her, but he loses control of himself when she confronts him and threatens to follow him home to tell his wife about their affair.

In a fit of drunken rage, Adam attacks her. He beats her black and blue, then he carves a smile on her face with a pair of shears. Afraid and ashamed, he flees the country and escapes prosecution.

But years later, when children start vanishing in his city and the only suspect is a woman with a scarred face, he suspects his past has followed him home…

Inspired by a classic urban legend, Jon Athan, the author of Lovesick and Maneater, brings you a disturbing new vision of sadistic romance.

WARNING: This novel contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.

The IndieMuse Review

Author Jon Athan has been on my radar for a while now. As an independent author, he’s been releasing attractive new editions onto the market that focus on extreme horror fiction. When I found out I’d be reviewing his 49th novel, I paused, wondering how the quality would stack up. This author is most definitely prolific. But the problem with most prolific authors is that their quality of writing suffers.

There are parts in this book that I felt suffered from a rush to production and a lack of editing, but surprisingly I found Am I Beautiful? to be engaging, well-written, and, for the most part, of a high quality release.

The story is not a new one. Attraction, obsession, stalking leading to a revenge story. But Athan delivers some refreshing additions to both the fatal attraction theme and the urban legend of the “The Slit-Mouthed Woman.”

The power of this book is centered on the metamorphoses of its two central characters: Adam and Miki. Adam is in Japan on a business trip when he meets Miki, a young Japanese hobbyist-seamstress, at a bar. Their attraction is instant which leads to the marital indiscretion on Adam’s part. This affair ignites the downward spiral as the plot unfolds.

When I mention a metamorphosis of each character, in this instance, I’m referring to the total damnation and brutal ruination of both characters which stem from this one act.

Adam’s dark side is brought to center stage from the ugly guilt that gnaws on him throughout the novel, causing him to act in horrific ways. Miki’s, on the other hand, is fueled by obsession and betrayal, a victim turned monster at the hands of Adam. By the end of the book, each character devolves into something almost unrecognizable from their innocent introduction at the beginning.

Jon Athan does a great job in chronicling Adam’s descent, albeit in instances perhaps a bit too over-the-top. Miki’s descent, on the other hand, may be marred by the common readers’ ability to suspend disbelief in her actions and physical capabilities.

Several scenes in this book are so extreme that it’ll leave a mark on readers. Athan is descriptive in brutal instances of dismemberment and torture throughout the book, particularly in parts in which a serial killer is actively stalking prey. And this is all linked to Adam and Miki’s chance encounter and connection at the Japanese bar.

Getting back to my review of quantity over quality: I did feel this book seemed rushed in parts. There were instances where Athan used multiple characters’ perspectives within paragraphs instead of sticking with a central character in each section. This is just my pet peeve as an editor and also somewhat distracting for readers to follow. But, thankfully, this was minimally invasive throughout the book.

The first section of the book, which was my favorite, set a nice foundation for the plot; it was engaging, more psychologically gripping, and had very little extreme events until the end. The following two sections planted the extreme horror flag quite deeply. To me, the plot seemed suspended for many pages for the sake of extreme acts and a mutilated body count.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t shy away from enjoying the most extreme presentations in horror literature; in fact, I embrace it. But never just to put words on a page without also developing the story. And this was hit-or-miss during a rather lengthy stretch in sections 2 and 3.

In the end, everything else truly compensated for the few shortcomings mentioned above. Jon Athan knows how to write, engage readers and present a gripping storyline. I would buy his next book without even thinking twice. I believe he has the ability to write a 5-star book (which I have never awarded in any of my ratings), but also take into consideration the fact that he is prolific, over-the-top in instances, and knows how to present a solid, gut-wrenching story that is layered with more than just blood and guts.

Jon Athan takes readers on a dark trip of damnation where two characters are brutally ruined—physically, spiritually and psychologically —and we are left as scarred bystanders witnessing the atrocities that radiate from a wayward attraction and subsequent act of betrayal. Am I Beautiful? is a well-developed tale of extreme horror!

SHANE STALEY

Shane Staley’s career in professional publishing spans more than 20 years. He is the founder of Delirium Books. In 2005 he won the Bram Stoker Award for excellence in specialty press publishing. He has published more than 300 titles through various imprints of Staley & Associates. He is also a Bram Stoker-nominated author and professional web developer. 

Throughout his career, his creative drive to support and promote the independent author and artist has resulted in the establishment of a prolific career in the arts and entertainment world. His creative output includes web development projects, book design and layout, editing and publishing. He is also an independent freelance publishing partner to several authors and publishers. 

Visit his publishing, editorial and web development site at: staleyandassociates.com.

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