“New You” by Jill Nied is a piece about radical change and regret, one that compelled the fiction team so much we just had to include it.

The protagonist is a young woman whose estranged sister is eventually sent off by their parents to a mysterious facility and does not hear from her for years on end. Then, while working at a coffee shop in New York, they encounter a woman who they instantly recognize as their sister, who’s changed completely. She doesn’t recognize them whatsoever and leaves without another word, even when the narrator attempts to reconnect briefly. 

It’s unclear whether or not the sister was willing to undergo this change (I believe it wasn’t, perhaps it was done out of a lack of other choices or an outside influence pinning it as necessity) but this story can infer multiple different interpretations which can vary depending on the reader’s opinions.  The story itself is also very well written, with great diction and well done syntax. Particularly its ending, which was “My sister still liked her coffee black.

I took my time brewing her drink. I couldn’t speak to her or touch her, but I could brew

her the perfect cup of coffee. It would be one last gift to her, to thank her for everything she had

ever done for me and apologize for not doing the same for her… I watched her through the large fingerprint-stained window, her purse swaying and her steps tiny and even, until she vanished into the city.” The concept is fascinating and absolutely existential, and I was immediately intrigued by it, advocating for its inclusion in the final product after some group discussion with the fellow editors.

This piece also has great imagery, and an example of which is “Her hair was ironed straight and tied into a half up style that would make anyone jealous. She wore large sunglasses, a silky pantsuit, and held a designer purse. But, what really set her apart was her toothy smile. A smile like that wasn’t only uncommon amongst New Yorkers, but also wholly out of place on this particular face.” It’s really surreal, and something I’ve never seen before in any other modern fiction. It has a very distinct tone, especially from the perspective of our protagonist. 

The dialogue in this piece feels well refined, more so than most published professional work I’ve read. The dialogue also adds to the overall mood of the story, establishing this atmosphere of dread and even a morbid sense of wonder. Take this snippet for instance: “‘Welcome,’ a booming voice called, “to the New You,” The door behind the receptionist’s desk swung open to reveal an elderly man with a halo of shocking white hair. He held a cane and wore glasses, but didn’t seem to rely on either. “My name is Montgomery. Montgomery Clearwater. And you,” he said, gesturing to my sister, “must be Sadie Furmanski.”’ It’s really well crafted.

Ezan Charo, lead Fiction editor

Read this piece in Issue 7 of Levitate Magazine!

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