by Juno Dawson
Pub Date: 23 May 2019
Teens & YA
PGBB Reviewed on NetGalley 02 June 2019 ⭐5/5
Juno Dawson just gets better and better with every book!
Meat Market is an extraordinarily accurate exposé of the fashion industry in the real world told through the experience of an utterly believable and lovable fictitious character: Jana Novak. In fact, I'm sure I know her!
I spent over 10 years in the modelling world, and it hasn't changed in 35 years. I remember it well and traced many of the same cities that Jana does and shared many of her experiences, good and bad. It is a testament to Juno's extensive research, incredible insight and empathy, coupled with her own experiences that allows her to so perfectly capture the details of a model's life through her novel, and make it so real for the reader.
One thing is very different though: What we didn't have in the international modelling scene of the 1980s and '90s, was such a strong female voice speaking up from such a prominent and respected position in the public eye calling out the nastiness and calling on everyone to put a stop to it. This is an important difference and makes this a very important book. Well done, and thank you, Juno!
For everyone who ever thought about giving modelling a go, male or female, (and their parents!) this is a must-read cautionary tale. While fashion is all about the glamour, the day-to-day life is all about the graft. The objectification of young people's bodies, the endless waiting round, hell-holes and hovels that pass for model flats, the outrageous out-of-season location shoots (swim-wear in January, ski-wear in July), the tiresome travel (nothing glamorous about intercontinental red-eye flights), days that last well over 12 hours in front of the camera... I needn't go on. Just read Meat Market for the inside scoop.
But on a positive note about the industry, it's not all cattiness on the cat-walk, true camaraderie crops up easily among models and I recognised many of the same sorts of friendships appearing on the pages of Meat Market: sisters and brothers-in-arms commiserating over the non-stop hard-knock nature of it all (if it's Thursday, this must be Paris!); fun and fabulous gay male models who provide a safe haven from all the hetero predators (and vice-versa for the opposite sex); platonic beauties (in both the figurative and literal senses) who are up for a bit of fun with no strings attached; and the agency angels who really do not suffer any fools messing with their girls (or boys) and take excellent care to protect their young charges. This may be fiction, but real people live in these pages.
At the heart of every one of Juno's novels there are always true friends, and in this one there is a sneaky extra treat: there is also true love. Beautifully delivered.
Footnote: Age-rating books is always problematic, so I'll go instead with trigger warnings... contains scenes of a sexual nature, drug use/abuse is described, and all models all over the world have potty-mouths, so there is inevitably a good amount of swearing. So if any of these things rub you the wrong way, just skim those bits! But please, READ THIS BOOK!