Meat Market by Juno Dawson

Meat Market

Meat Market by Juno Dawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Juno Dawson is an excellent writer. She’s fearless, too, touching on issues that would dwarf many other writers, and managing to turn them into vital narratives of empowerment and self-discovery. Her great gift is that she doesn’t make these narratives easy. Life isn’t. As much as we’d wish it to be, particularly for those we love, it isn’t. Dawson gets that, and she lets her characters live life. Messy. Painful. Honest. True. She is very, very good.

Meat Market
sees Dawson turn towards the fashion industry. It’s a precisely, tightly plotted affair with knowledge that speaks from careful research and a healthy awareness of pop culture. Jana has been scouted by a fashion agency, and this is the story of her experience of the fashion world. I need to pause and recognise that fabulous cover; Dawson is never sold short by cover design, and this is no exception. It’s the first hint of a bold, unsparing book that twists into something quite addictive. I was walking around the house with this in one hand. Dishes with the other. Stirring the pan with the other. That sort of ‘can’t quite put down’ problem that comes when reading incredibly vivid, well told stories.

Touching on some potent, complex, and challenging issues, Meat Market is one for upper YA readers. The publishers pitch it on the back of the book for 14+, and while age-ratings are a difficult subject in their own rate, I think they’re bang on with this one. It’s important for me to emphasise that I say that not for the content that is represented which, incidentally, I think is very well handled, but rather for understanding the nuances of its representation. Dawson recognises the glamour of the fashion industry but also the pressures of it and the power dynamics that can come into play in such horrific situations. There’s some clever, bold writing here which challenges and questions those dynamics, and the final movement of the story is an incredibly empowering affair. It’s not often you see agency being actively located within those who are denied it, and Dawson does that with every breath she takes. Meat Market is excellent. It’s borderline anthemic.

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