Material Girls: the Fiendish Pitfalls of Fashion

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(ARC copy given by NetGalley)
Author: Elaine Dimopoulos
Publication:  5th May 2015
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Review by Lady Entropy

“In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives?         Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion.
         
Are you in or are you out?

I really enjoyed this book. As someone who has a secret guilty pleasure reading fashion YA books (I request all I can find in NG), I was surprised to find this one to be a lot more than just designer name-dropping or reality shows stories.

There is actually a message behind it. And more importantly, there is actually consequences for the heroine’s actions.

Also, and something I can’t stress enough is important while writing outside our own era and reality, there is actual world-building.

It’s half past the near future, and creative jobs (like singing, acting, choosing fashion) are now handed only to “the elite”, teenagers who are selected upon joining high school for their skills. Teenagers go to work like adults, and earn the highest income of the house — assuming they are part of the elite. If not, they are limited to going back to school, and looking forward to becoming “baselines” and making a modest living at best.

Marla Klein might be past her prime (16 year old! ew!) but she knows fashion when she sees it — she refuses to compromise her taste and ideals, even when it means risking the wrath of her superiors. And that gets in demoted quickly to a mere fashion sketcher.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Ivy Wilde, a singing sensation, the Wilde Child of the music world. She is tired of the falseness, the idiocy, the synthetic life people like her are expected to live just because the rest of the world is too stupid to know better.

This book, then, follows two girls who are very disenchanted with the world society is set up today — eventually they cross paths and work together, even if Marla’s fall made her be at the lowest strata in the creative industry.

It unfolds in a very elegant, very organic plot, even if the final conflict does miss a certain… bang. I do like the ending, a twisted, sad and bizarre reflection (can’t clarify without spoiling). I also quite enjoyed the suggested list of reading and research the target audience could search to inform themselves — I love books that teach me new things. This helped add an extra layer of love for the book — Hunger Games, Battle Royal and Divergent (okay, maybe _not_ Divergent) are fun to read but they feel like “something that would never happen”. They lack the punch to the gut of feeling “this could be our reality one day”. “Material Girls is much closer to our world, it already is, to a point. It makes the book much more poignant, much more “kick in the feels” because, in a way, it is already happening. And it is damn scary.

As for the low points, I wish, really, that Marla mother didn’t suffer from the “plot convenient volte-face”. She became a completely different person, at a drop of a hat because it was “convenient” to up the ante, when until then she had been a loving, understanding mother, and it wasn’t Marla’s fault AT ALL what was done. I wish she had been handled better as she went from fully supportive to screaming harpy for no reason. At least I’d wish I’d get some subtle warnings about her true personality before.

All in all, a damn fine read for any YAs (and some adults) out there who are not only interested in fashion for fashion, but would actually like to know more about the behind-the-scenes of how big fashion houses work, and maybe think of finding a career in that world.

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