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My name is Ardis and I am an avid reader and budding writer. I want to share my love of books with others. I work with kids and am interested in finding and creating books that will ignite the reader in everyone. Contact me at: ardis.atkins@gmail.com

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Friday, July 28, 2017

ARC Review: The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby

Please Note:  I received an advance reader's copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This did not influence the opinions of my review in any way.

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
What if one contest could change the course of your entire life?

Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion.

John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes.

Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. And whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship.


Review:
When I first received this book from the Penguin Random House First In Line program, I thought it looked like a kind of cute, light romance.  With a name like The Fashion Committee, I wasn't expecting anything deep.  So I was surprised when I read this.  The light tone is in stark contrast to the harsh reality of one of the characters.  I really enjoyed this book, as I think it said a lot about art, following your passions, and not letting your circumstances determine your future.

What I Liked:  
Characters:
The novel is written as a he said/she said book.  Each chapter's POV alternates between Charlie Dean, the fashion obsessed teen, and John Thomas-Smith, who enters the competition as a backdoor way of getting into the elite Green Pastures high school of fine arts.  

I loved Charlie.  Behind her seemingly superficial love of clothes lies a teen with a horrific home life.  Fashion is her escape, so she doesn't have to face the fact that her dad is a drug addict.  Charlie uses a lot of French words (thanks to Google translate!), that she hopes will make her sound more sophisticated.  I loved her determination to create an oasis in her bedroom where she could let her imagination soar.  

She is also dead set on becoming a clothing designer.  She has a focus that leaves no time for friends or a love life.  But maybe that cute girl who is a fellow competitor (and a major flirt) will nudge Charlie into making room for a romance?  I was rooting for Charlie to have some happiness.

Mischa is the new, very young girlfriend of Charlie's dad (they met in rehab).  She is really trying to stay clean and sober, but she is a very damaged person due to an abusive ex-boyfriend.  Mischa becomes Charlie's model, and inspiration, for the competition.  It was beautiful to have Mischa see that other people saw her as a valuable person.

Story:
I love novels with competitions in them.  Even though I know nothing about fashion, the author does a wonderful job educating the reader about fashion theory and all the thinking that goes into creating clothes.  I think the competition, itself, was amazing, and showed lots of teens who are exploring their passions.  I also liked that Charlie had some pretty serious competition in the contest.  I hate it when it is a forgone conclusion that the main character will win.  You really don't know who the winner will be until the very end.  

This book has a lot to say about creating art, whether it be as a fashion designer, a painter, or someone who welds metal into cool sculptures.  There are so many ways to express yourself.  But it seems the truly important thing is not the end product, but the creative process, itself.  

I also appreciate that there isn't a manufactured romance between Charlie and John.  They rarely interact with each other and have their own story lines.

What I Didn't Like:
Characters:
I really don't care for John.  Since his story makes up half of the book, this is a huge problem for me.  I just think he is a terrible person on so many levels.  First of all, he enters the competition as a backdoor way into Green Pasture's metals program.  He figures he can bluff his way through the competition, and after he wins he will just transfer over to the other program.  This is so insulting to the other contestants, for whom fashion is their lives.

John is also awful to his girlfriend.  He is easily flattered by the attention of a rich girl who already attends Green Pastures, and he lets her help him in the contest.  Cheater!!!  The only reason for John's character is to contrast his life with Charlie's.  I guess his purpose in the book is to show how Charlie shows true guts by overcoming real hardships.  He is a whiny pretty boy by comparison.

Overall, I think this book is worth reading for Charlie's character, alone.  She has an amazing resilience that will make you cheer, and break your heart.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31456511-the-fashion-committee?from_search=true
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-fashion-committee-susan-juby/1124302316?ean=9780451468789https://www.amazon.com/Fashion-Committee-Susan-Juby/dp/0451468783/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1501218635&sr=8-1&keywords=the+fashion+committee

https://www.bookdepository.com/The-Fashion-Committee-Susan-Juby/9780451468789?ref=grid-view&qid=1501218583804&sr=1-4


Rating: 




Release Date:  May 23rd, 2017

Genre:  YA Contemporary

Pages:  307 pages

Source:  Random House First In Line program

Format:  Paperback advance reader's copy

Recommendation:  If you love the process of creating art, and a gusty character who will steal your heart, then you will love this book.
 
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