Meat Market by Juno Dawson Book Review. A look at the grimy underbelly of the fashion industry

“Jana Novak is catapulted to superstardom when she’s scouted by a model agency. But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous, and there are predators at every turn.”

Jana Novak’s story starts the same way as most model cliche’s. She is plucked from obscurity (well, Thorpe Park) and her working-class London life then instantly catapulted into model superstardom. Every girl’s dream, right?  But, what if Jana hadn’t ever really felt comfortable with her gangly body and androgynous looks? What if it all happened so fast and before she knew it, she didn’t recognise herself. When did she stop being a person and become a piece of meat to be bought, sold, touched, judged and snapped?

Is Jana a person, or a commodity?

Duffy’s thoughts on Meat Market

Juno Dawson has tremendous talent when it comes to writing YA. She also has by far the best book covers on the market, but I digress. Her previous book, Clean explored addiction and recovery, and her latest release, Meat Market is a detailed expose of the grimy side of the fashion industry.

The plot begins in an entirely predictable way. The classic cliche of a young woman plucked from the street and turned into a supermodel seemingly overnight. However, once Jana takes those first tentative steps into her new world, the cliches stop and the real story starts. It’s evident Dawson spent a considerable amount of time on research and this dedication to truth is reflected in Jana’s story and adds depth to the character formulation.

The reality for those living each day in the world of fashion is intriguing and at times extremely concerning. Meat Market exposes the fashion industry in its entirety, even the bits that aren’t so beautiful and purposely hidden from the public gaze.

In the era of #metoo #timesup and recent celebrity scandals involving men who use their power to exploit, manipulate and even rape women writing Meat Market could be perceived as a gamble. A massive risk particularly given the YA demographic the book is aimed at, but it hits the mark. Jana’s voice is genuine and utterly believable, ensuring you are invested in her and her happiness from the outset. I read the book in two sittings. The second time, I had America’s Next Top Model on in the background. Watching it reinforced the fact that reality TV couldn’t be further from reality. It’s also rather nauseating to watch.

Dawson continues to represent diversity, without tokenism and predictability. She creates unique characters who have traits, flaws, strengths and families which resonate with us all. What a gift to have.

Meat Market is available now in all good bookshops. Published by Quercus Children’s Books RRP $17.99