Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Review: 'Material Girls' by Elaine Dimopoulos


When I saw this book on Netgalley I was immediately interested in it. Similar to other good dystopian books, Material Girls picks up on a current trend or current set of behavioral rules and takes them one step further. What happens when the obsession with fashion and fitting in goes too far? Thank you to Netgalley and HMH for providing me with a copy of the book.

Pub. Date: 05/05/2015
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives? 
        Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion. Are you in or are you out?
What differentiates good dystopian fiction from bad dystopian fiction is, in my mind, all in the characters and how they see their world. We as readers aren't necessarily supposed to recognize the world in which the protagonists live but we need to be able to identify with their need for order and stability, for example, or with their need for an aggressive outlet. Although novels such as 1984 combine both a believable society and strong characters, this isn't laid out for all the dystopian novels we've been given in the last few tears. What struck me about Material Girls was that Dimopoulos' characters were relatively believable, similar, for example to the protagonists in Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill. The pressures these girls, and boys, found themselves under to perform well, to not disappoint and to maintain a system that is potentially harmful struck me as rather realistic. Looking at the teenagers around me nowadays, many of them find themselves working hard without any real prospects of success. Although I would've wished for a little bit more world-building in the sense that there was more explanation of the history of the world.

The two main characters, Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde, are what pull the narrative and bring in the most tension throughout most of the novel. Their lives are played out in front of the reader almost like a reality show, showing us their clothes, their mobile devices, their loves etc,, in which Dimopoulos adds an extra layer of complexity to the novel because she makes the reader complicit in this world. This is another hint of the potential that Material Girls had and Dimopoulos delivers on a lot of these hints. Marla and Ivy are relatively relatable in their hopes and aspirations and in the journey that they take through the novel. It was great to see Dimopoulos use different styles of writing with the two girls and intertwine their stories. Through a number of twists and turns, Dimopoulos comes to an ending that is relatively shocking, yet it is a great twist which makes up for the occasional lack of world-building.

A pet peeve of mine is when authors take the easy black-and-white approach to good and evil. It is too easy, in my opinion, to cast a villain and make them utterly despicable while keeping your heroes pure and good. In Material Girls, Dimopoulos uses a set of ideas we're all very familiar with in order to show how people have to make choices every day, on every level of society. By making everyone susceptible to corruption, Dimopoulos adds some depth to her narrative which a lot of modern dystopian novels miss out on. It also means it isn't as easy to just get completely swept up in the novel because the reader has to keep thinking their way through it. I enjoyed seeing a novel which is relatively realistic about its ideas of corporations and revolutions, rather than throwing reality out of the window and staging a three-day overthrow which ends all poverty and hunger, for example.

I give this book...

4 Universes!

Although I was intrigued by Material Girls from the beginning, I didn't think I'd enjoy it as much as I did. Dimopoulos' novel manages to take something we encounter every single day and push it that little bit further,  making Material Girls a really intriguing novel. I think it is a great addition to the YA genre and I'd recommend it to fans of the dystopian genre!

2 comments:

  1. This book was really unique and I enjoyed it a lot, I'm glad you did too. But I agree with you on the black and white - good and evil thing, that was one of the things I really didn't enjoy so much about it either.

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  2. This book sounded so interesting, but I wasn't sure if I would love it, do I decided against requesting it! Now I regret it because I've been hearing so many great things!

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