With a blurb advertising this book as a “Project Runway” meets “I’ll Give You The Sun”, The Fashion Committee definitely had my attention from the beginning. Unfortunately, with these kind of expectations right from the start, I felt a bit disappointed with what this book delivered. I had a lot of fun reading it, that’s for sure, but I think I expected maybe too much from it. I‘ll Give You The Sun is, after all, one of my favorite books of all times.
A STORY ABOUT A PASSION FOR FASHION
The Fashion Committee is a story about Charlie Dean, a teenager living and breathing fashion every single second. John Thomas-Smith, on the contrary, does not care at all about it, yet he’ll find himself against her in a fashion competition, in order to win a scholarship to a very private, very hyped and very good private art high school. This synopsis made me eager to get started, for so many reasons, but most of it all, because it seemed to highlight before anything else, passion. Goals. Dreams of both of these teenagers matching up against reality. If I’m being honest, you know I am reading a lot of contemporary stories, but it was so, so refreshing to actually read a contemporary that focused on this passion. Obviously, there were dramas, love, fights and a whole lot of other dramas aside from this fashion competition, but this was the heart of the book, and boy, it felt GOOD to actually tackle this way such a subject with no big love story or anything overshadowing it.
A LACK OF CONNECTION TO THE CHARACTERS
Unfortunately, I think what made this book go from very good to good, were the characters’ voices. Told from two different point of views, the story takes us alternatively from Charlie’s life and story to John’s; and both of their narrative felt, for me, a bit hard to get into.
If both are told from a witty, fun and sometimes a bit heart-wrenching point of view, Charlie’s narrative kind of had me confused and annoyed more than once because of the many French words constantly appearing here and there because well, that’s how fashion people talk, or at least that’s what she wanted to let us know this way. If you don’t know this, I am French so the words did not slow down my reading or made me stop to understand what she was saying, but still, I found that it kind of altered the reading experience and cut the reading rhythm. If, for sure, it made Charlie’s voice quite unique, I was something that quite bothered me. I found myself more drawn to John’s part of the story and his struggles – even if I have to admit that I did not agree on his behaviour many of the times -, but unfortunately, both characters kind of failed to make me connect with them so much. I cared about what happened to them but I did not felt as invested as I found have liked in their destiny.
If there is something I appreciated, though, it’s how they both evolved through the story. At the beginning, both characters appear to be very judgmental and set in their ways, but as the competition goes on, they both get more open-minded and find out that there is more to the world and to the people around them than what they first see. This definitely was something I appreciated a lot.
MORE THAN A LIGHT CONTEMPORARY
Another positive point in this story is how it’s not, at all, what it appears to be. I already had labeled it a “light” contemporary, given the synopsis, but I had it all wrong. Was it fun to read? Yes, a lot. But it also dealt with interesting, deeper issues, especially with Charlie’s dad and his addiction struggles, violence, growing up too fast ; but also on John’s side, on doing what’s right, notions of right and wrong, loving and losing. I really appreciated how the author choose to shine a light on this as well, making this book a bit more than just a light story.
The Fashion Committee definitely is a book driven by the characters’ passion, one that keeps them alive, one that makes them go on and on, even do crazy things at times. If I really appreciated this focus, unfortunately it won’t be a memorable book for me. Still, if you’re looking for a fun, quick and certainly passionate story, you might want to try out this one.
Final rating: 3 drops!
Thanks to NetGalley and Viking Books for Young Readers for the digital ARC of this book. This did not, in any way affect my opinion on this.
Do you want to read The Fashion Committee? Why, or why not? Share your thoughts in comments!
Susan Juby, The Fashion Committee, Published by Viking Books For Young Readers, May 23rd 2016.
Project Runway meets I’ll Give You the Sun in the story of a girl, a boy, and the fashion competition that could change both of their lives.
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. Whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship–and only one can win.
Told in the alternating voices of Charlie’s and John’s journals, this hilarious and poignant YA novel perfectly captures what it’s like to have an artistic drive so fierce that nothing–not your dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping–can stand in your way.
With black and white art custom-created by fashion and beauty illustrator Soleil Ignacio, the book is a collector’s item, perfect for anyone with a passion for fashion.