It takes A LOT for me to put a book down and take a breath. I have read splatterpunk books across the genre that everyone was talking about making their DNF list and didn’t bat an eye (whatever that says about me). However, HYSTERIA: LOLLY AND LADY VANITY put me to the test, and currently, it is Lady Vanity: 1 Devin: 0. Don’t let my word of warning dissuade you from this new book from Ali Seay. Nay, just the opposite. I hope this review will steer you toward this female-led horror book. Let me explain…
HYSTERIA: LOLLY AND LADY VANITY is a collection of two stories from indie writer Ali Seay. I stumbled across her on Tiktok with little to no information on what this book was about and I truly went in blind. The first story follows Lolly, a 21-year-old woman who still lives with the guilt of her sister’s disappearance when she was a kid while she was down with the flu. A decade later, things have come full circle and Lolly has the flu once again.
After beginning her antiviral medication, she begins to notice something strange. She begins to see dark, disgusting halos around the heads of some members of society. Many of them that she sees in her neighborhood match up with the sex offenders registry. With the knowledge that her sister was most likely taken by a monster not dissimilar to these halo-ed individuals, she decides to take matters into her own hands, all the while trying to just get feeling better.
The second story follows Frankie, a woman recovering from ED who just started menopause. With menopause comes hot flashes and some unfortunate weight gain, but the only person who notices is Frankie. Her husband, Alex, sees her falling into dangerous old habits and suggests she speak with someone. Her therapist is out of town, so she speaks with a member of the clergy who suggests she go thrift shopping for new clothes that make her feel more confident. Instead of finding a new shirt or pants, she finds a double-bladed serrated and mechanical knife named Lady Vanity. Frankie and Lady Vanity immediately bond and she takes it home. What starts as an innocent fascination turns into something dangerous and bloody tied to Frankie’s distorted self-image.
Even though these stories are part of the same book, they couldn’t feel more different. The stories have completely different tones and energies. While I easily made it through Lolly with my nose dug in waiting to see what happens next, I could barely look at LADY VANITY for any extended amount of time. I had to read it in chunks because there were moments that literally made me sick to my stomach. That’s not to say that it was overly gory or visceral (although it doesn’t shy away from it either). LADY VANITY digs into the insecurities that are slammed into women all day, every day. It deals with body dysmorphia, low self-esteem, and the willingness to do anything to fit society’s beauty standards.
Ali Seay has a way with words that feels artistic but at the same time doesn’t feel snobbish. Sometimes a book can come across as artful but full of itself. At times it seems that writers write just to “hear themselves talk” so to speak. Seay writes efficiently and to the point. There is no-nonsense and little to no filler without taking away from the atmosphere that she creates. She makes the dialogue seem realistic, not forced.
It has only been a few days since I finished HYSTERIA: LOLLY AND LADY VANITY. I have already recommended it to four separate people, three of them strangers. If you are looking for a fast-paced summer read that will leave you feeling both vindicated and in need of a long hot shower, this is the book for you.
HYSTERIA: LOLLY AND LADY VANITY is now available to purchase here.