YA Review: Meat Market

Title: Meat Market
Author: Juno Dawson
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

When sixteen-year-old Jana Novak is scouted by a modelling agency, she thinks she’s going into her new career with her eyes open. She doesn’t think of herself as beautiful, and she accepts that her recruitment is based on her height (5’11”) and her on-trend androgynous looks. Her parents, friends, and committed boyfriend support her, while helping to keep her grounded, and her agency finds her work with top fashion brands. She seems well-placed to succeed.

But the pressure and loneliness of long-distance travel, and the demands of the people she works with, start to take a toll on Jana. As she discovers the truth about the industry that pays huge sums of money to use her face and body in their advertising campaigns, she is forced to choose between her career and her conscience.

This is compelling story. Jana is a believable girl-next-door character from a South London housing estate. She hasn’t dreamt of being a model, but she embraces the opportunities her agency provides, and learns as she goes what life as a living mannequin is really like. There are some touching moments, as she connects with the models she meets as she travels the world, and there are some shocking twists as she discovers the realities of surviving a punishing schedule and meeting the expectations of the people and companies who pay her wages.

The book doesn’t shy away from depicting the darker sides of the fashion industry, touching on dieting, eating disorders, drug use, and inappropriate sexual behaviour. But in spite of this, it is an optimistic story, narrated by a likeable, brave teenage girl. Her family and friends feel real and rounded, and her relationship with her boyfriend is lovely. At times, they feel like a much more mature couple, and he helps to keep her connected to her home and her life outside modelling.

Despite the twists and turns of the plot, Jana remains a sympathetic and relatable character, keeping the reader engaged with her story. The clever structure of the narrative – sections of interview alternated with sections of story – is explained at the end of the book, and finding out who was asking the questions made me want to back and read the book again, with this in mind. This is an important and accessible #MeToo novel, and definitely worth a read.

Have you read Meat Market? Did it make you think differently about the fashion industry? Did you think it was an optimistic story, or a depressing one? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: Noughts and Crosses

Title: Noughts and Crosses
Author: Malorie Blackman
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

Noughts and Crosses front cover image

Wow. I’m all for hard-hitting, challenging stories, but this takes the prize for leaving me breathless and traumatised – and it is brilliantly done. In her introduction, the author describes her ‘desire to tackle the subject of racism head on’ by putting her characters through humiliating situations that she had experienced herself as a black teenager. Personal experience and anger at ‘the artificial divides we always seem to put between ourselves and others’ gives this book a raw, realistic feel, and the clever flipping of the black/white power balance allows racist ideas to be challenged, free from readers’ preexisting assumptions.

The narrative is split between two main characters, with alternating Point of View chapters. Thirteen-year-old Sephy is a Cross – a member of the dark-skinned ruling class – and her fifteen-year-old best friend Callum is a Nought – a member of the pale-skinned underclass. Noughts were once kept as slaves by Crosses, and society is still stacked against its pale-skinned members. Schooling is segregated, and very few Noughts achieve a high level of education, or well-paid jobs. The growing relationship between Sephy and Callum provokes resentment from their families, and from the people around them. The plot makes some shocking twists, while staying true to the characters and the setting, and by the end I was angry, upset, and thoroughly invested in the outcome of the story. It took me a while to fully sympathise with both main characters, but when the plot grabbed me, I couldn’t put the book down.

It is very hard to say anything else without giving away spoilers – and trust me, this is a story you don’t want to spoil. It’s a book that makes the reader question their own invisible prejudices, while following the characters through some tough decisions, and eventually shouting at the words on the page. It is an important story, accessibly told, that will stay with me long after the book goes back on the shelf. Very highly recommended.

Have you read Noughts and Crosses? What did you think? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


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