THE PLOT: Meat Market by Juno Dawson is a young adult novel about the fashion industry. Jana is an ordinary sixteen-year-old from a London council estate when she’s spotted by a model scout. Extremely tall for her age, she’s catapulted into a word of fame and fortune as her first walk at London Fashion Week goes viral. But, as she goes from campaign shoots in New York to walking shows in Paris and ads in Beijing, she begins to see the ugly side of the industry. And, when her agency encourages her to shoot with a renowned photographer, the encounter leaves her scarred and she begins to question why she wanted to model in the first place.
RATING: I devoured this novel so it has to be four and a half stars. Fast-paced, exciting, dramatic, I wanted to know what happened yet wanted to savour the ride. This book is funny but also handles sensitive issues, such as eating disorders and sexual abuse. As a 5’11 teenager, I wanted to be a model and this book allowed me to live out my dreams. From what I know of the industry it felt like a realistic (yet fast-tracked) portrayal of dodgy test shoots, model apartments and debt, truly encapsulating the ups and downs of the lifestyle. Simply put, I could not stop reading and there’s no higher praise than that.
GOOD BITS: I particularly liked the first-person voice of the main character, Jana, as it allowed us to experience this ridiculous world with her. The way Jana told her story and the use of newspaper articles and interviews was very engaging and clever. Additionally, there was a diverse cast of ‘school friends’ and ‘model friends’, which added a sense of richness to the novel and allows the author to explore a range of topics in different ways (no spoilers!). It wasn’t just about what Jana was doing. There was a sense that the minor characters kept living in the background even when the “camera’s eye” wasn’t on them.
NOT SO GOOD BITS: Sometimes Jana’s accent and idioms grated on me. She uses ‘don’t’ instead of ‘doesn’t’, and I felt this was jarring instead of demonstrating her character background. As a south-London teenager, who didn’t grow up too far from some of the locations in the book, I felt it was unnecessary. Other uses of slang managed to convey her family’s social and immigrant status and I felt this was annoying without adding anything to the novel.
OVERALL: From the writing style to the tone to the subject matter, this book is very YA and I wouldn’t see much crossover potential. Therefore, I think you’ve got to like YA to enjoy it. But, if you’re a fan of the genre then grab a copy now. It’s diverse and modern and fun to read, yet it still makes you think. And in these pandemic days, what more can you want from a book than a blooming entertaining story?