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Review: The Fashion Committee

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This is the kind of book I judged hard by both its cover and its title. Purple and green on white with doodles, plus fashion? There aren’t too many books that make me think “this is not for me,” but this was one. Still, I’ve long been trying to challenge my literary walls, so I gave it a try. Read on to see what I thought.


Charlie Dean is the fashion-obsessed daughter of a recovering drug addict. John Thomas-Smith is a wanna-be metal sculptor who doesn’t care about fashion at all. But they’re both hoping to get into Green Pastures, a prestigious art school that could offer them a kick-start to promising careers.  When the school offers a scholarship for the winner of a fashion design contest, Charlie Dean sees it as a way to make her dreams come true. John sees it as his last chance to get into the school and plans to switch programs once he wins. They both have passion and desire so strong that nothing will get in the way.

Let’s get into it…

So, my initial reaction was pretty hard to overcome, I’m afraid. Charlie Dean’s focus on fashion and her manner of discussing it (French terms, “here’s an idea” diary entries, judgement of others’ outfits) was hard for me to relate to. I dress for comfort and temperature, first and foremost. And John, he makes some pretty questionable choices that don’t endear him to me.

Yet, there is something to this book. While I am not quite so disdainful of other people’s interests as John and his friends at the beginning of the novel, I went through a similar process of growing to a appreciate the scholarship contestants’ passion. You don’t have to be a fashion enthusiast to appreciate the creative process. Even I was interested in the descriptions of concept development and design inspiration.

There’s also a lot more going on than a fashion design contest. Susan Juby does a good job at layering the serious with the more lighthearted. Charlie Dean and John Thomas-Smith come from low-income families and neither have reliable parents. Charlie Dean basically keeps her household afloat, since her father cycles between addiction and recovery. Her insights into drug addiction are touching – she is aware and understanding, confident in what she can and can’t control, yet willing to give her father and his girlfriend trust and opportunity. John, on the other hand, lives with loving grandparents since his mother teaches abroad, yet finds himself unsatisfied and longing for more.

So, while I still think this book isn’t really for me, it’s got enough going on to entertain. I also know I’m not the intended audience. It’s for ages 7 and up, and I think it could really appeal to that age group. It’s about high school kids and their dreams, after all.

Final verdict: Though it wasn’t a home run for me, The Fashion Committee is an easy read for those look interested in fashion and creativity.

Special thanks to Viking for the ARC, which I received at the Pinecrest YA Book Club anniversary.

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