Release Date: May 23, 2017
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.
*Thank you Viking Books for Young Readers and NetGalley for the copy in exchange for an honest review.
The Fashion Committee was told in the voices of two teens, Charlene “Charlie” Dean and JTS John Thomas-Smith. Both of them eyeing for the scholarship at Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design which has the best art program for high school in Canada. It is also expensive and both can’t afford the tuition so they are hoping to get the scholarship. This year the theme for the Emerging Talent scholarship is fashion. Charlie is more than ecstatic. If there’s someone who loves everything about fashion, it is Charlie Dean. Her life revolves around fashion and she is pretty good at it. She has a big chance to win and she knows it. John, on the other hand, dislikes fashion and the people who like clothes so much. He encountered a lot of them from his job at Salad Stop and he never once met someone who doesn’t irritate him. He is beyond dismayed when Green Pastures’ scholarship will be awarded to someone who shows promise with fashion. Why not the metal art which is his specialty or anything else? Why fashion? Still, it didn’t stop him from joining even if he faked his way through the application process. Imagine his surprise when he got the acceptance letter from Green Pastures. But faking documents is different from making his own design for the fashion show. How could he possibly win when he’s going up against someone like Charlie who looks like she’s breathing fashion?
I didn’t expect anything much for The Fashion Committee. But what can I say? J’adore! Because a story that I once thought will revolve around fashion and clothes are so much more than that. I got that impression because of the cover. I don’t think it fits the story no matter how cute it is. Anyway, it deals with deeper issues that some teens are going through. It is not your usual YA book so don’t expect any romance and cutesy scenario, it is not one of those. But that just adds to the appeal of the story. It is brave to deal with issues such as having a drug addict parents, domestic violence and even poverty.
Charlie Dean is a charming main character. She can be over-the-top with her clothes but she doesn’t appear annoying at all. She doesn’t blabber about fashion as I expected her to be. She is what you call an outcast but she is not pressured to be liked by her peers. Her determination is admirable and her passion for clothes and anything to do with it is her kind of escape from life. Her dad is a “recovering” drug user and what I like about her is that she is not resentful about it. She supported her dad as much as she can. She doesn’t have an easy life but she also doesn’t let it affect her. She used it as an inspiration to have a better future. I also love her dropping French words every so often. I didn’t find it annoying, just adorable. Hey, I use Google Translate for my French, too! No judgment.
Meanwhile, I like John’s hyphenated name. It’s cool. Anyway, he is so much different from Charlie. Although they both deal with a lot of hard stuff in life, John is kind of disgruntled about it. He resented his parents, his mom is off working in Dubai, while his dad is an absentee, he doesn’t know when he’ll show. He is staying with his super nice grandparents. He can be a total jerk at times and make unquestionable decisions which will easily make you dislike him but when you think about it, it is something some people would do, too, and you’ll see that he isn’t that bad. What I am saying is, things are pretty much realistic in The Fashion Committee and you can’t expect people to do the right thing always.
Even the supporting characters are quite likeable. I like Tesla, John’s new “friend”. She is rich and privileged, so to speak, and it’s nice how she offer to help John. It is a shame she doesn’t have a lot of exposure in the book. The other contestants for the fashion show are interesting, too. I like how Charlie found a friend in them and not see her as a weird girl since they all share the same passion after all. Even Charlie’s dad is not that bad. He even has a good relationship with his daughter that not all people can claim they have. John’s girlfriend Barbra, on the other hand, was said to be a perfect girl, but I’m afraid I failed to see it. She and his best friend doesn’t even support John and even make fun of him when he started taking fashion seriously. Some friends, huh? He is not as interesting as Charlie, but his story is as entertaining as hers.
One thing I love about this book is how Charlie and John chose their models. Charlie asked her father’s new girlfriend (whom I like, too!) who’s recovering from drug use, too. And John chose a kid who’s being bullied by her classmates. But it is not only the two of them who chose unconventional models, the other’s did, too and it is a heart-warming feeling. The fashion show scene is one of my favorite parts. I feel my heart swell from so much emotion. It’s overwhelming. Another thing is how it didn’t even try to over-glamorize the fashion aspect that makes you see the other side of it. How everything is not what it seems to be. That sometimes there is more than meets the eyes. That you can’t judge people based on what they look like. That those people you don’t like can surprise and inspire you in so many ways.
So, yeah, I love The Fashion Committee. It is an awesome read and I will sure be checking out other Susan Juby books. The characters are fun, and so is the plot. It is also well-written and unexpected in a lot of ways that you don’t mind if it’s not what you’ve imagined. An empowering and feel-good read that is perfect for people who loves fashion. Contemporary YA readers will surely enjoy it, as well as relate to it.
(*Photos and synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)
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