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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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Clean : Juno Dawson

CleanClean by Juno Dawson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The versatility of Dawson never fails to astound me. She is a writer who imbues a sense of truth into everything that she does, and this is no exception. Clean is a beautiful book. It really is, because Dawson manages to twist all of the pain and anger and fear and sadness into something honest and truthful and human. That underneath it all, we’re all still people. We’re all still somebody and sometimes finding that somebody, that essence of truth, is the hardest thing to do. This book is full of truth, but also of sympathy. Being human isn’t easy. It’s not pretty. But it is achievable, someway, somehow.

Rich socialite and it girl, Lexi Volkov is forced into rehab after a near-overdose. It’s time to get clean and to face up to her demons. As she gets to know herself, and her fellow inmates, she starts to realise just who she really is. And who she’s going to be.

Reminiscent of Melvin Burgess at his fiery best, this is an unsparing and unafraid book. It touches on some challenging issues, uses some challenging language, and yet does it all in a justified and straightforward manner. Dawson’s not working for shock value here, but rather for a kaleidoscopic truth. Lexi isn’t the most likable of characters at times, and yet, in a way, that made me like her even more. It’s easy to root for the people who have failings, and for the authors who allow these failings to be shown. It’s human, and I like writers and books that are able to acknowledge the truth of that experience.

I also have to add a note of praise for the Quercus design team. This is an outstanding front cover. Absolutely, so.

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Margot and Me : Juno Dawson

Margot & MeMargot & Me by Juno Dawson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes it’s hard to write through tears and yet, here I am, pushing through and trying to capture what makes Margot and Me so rather utterly wonderful. It is wonderful. I have written a thousand sentences trying to capture the nuances of this beautiful and heartfelt novel and I don’t think I’m anywhere near capturing it.

But I will try, and it starts with how Dawson understands character. She writes thick and fat and full and round people, believable people, understandable people, and this book is one that it’s hard to step away from. I love it. I love Dawson’s writing and how she crafts something so perfectly nuanced and, when it needs to be, kind.

Margot and Me is a split narrative between present day, where Fliss and her mother have moved to her grandmother’s farm in Wales, and the second world war diaries of her grandmother. Fliss’ mother is recuperating from chemotherapy and the farm stay is to help her recover. But Fliss’ grandmother, the redoubtable Margot, is not the easiest person to live with. It is only when Fliss discovers Margot’s WW2 diaries and starts reading them that she comes to figure out a few things about her…

Margot and Me inhabits a very distinct ground and it owns that ground so clearly and distinctly and so brightly and so perfectly. Think of the perfect A Little Love Song, think of Carrie’s War, think of The Other Way Round, and you’ll have an idea where this ferociously contemporary and deeply sensitive and nuanced book is. It hybridises that second world war story of growing up in extraordinary times with a consciousness that life, living, whatever time it is, is complex and troublesome and hard and a story that is needing to be told.

And I am still crying over the way it so, so perfectly does that.

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