Disclosure: I received a review copy of the book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos • contains 336 pages • published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015 • classified as Dystopian, Satire, Young Adult • obtained through NetGalley • read as eARC • shelve on Goodreads
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?
Reading Material Girls felt like an immersion into an alternate reality. I hesitate to call it futuristic, as many dystopian novels tend to be, because there was no sense of history in relation to our world today.
In this world, fashion and entertainment mattered above all else. A lot of elements such as overt reliance on personal IT (known as Unums & Tabulas, reflective of smartphones and tablets), chasing trends and caring about celebrity status were smartly spun into a satirical story of our social state.
A lot of things in Material Girls came off as highly ridiculous in the surface. Yet digging deeper revealed a lot about what matters to us today. Environmental considerations matter less to many people than gaining economic superiority. The amount of waste we produce is mind-boggling. Social class still has huge a influence on how we perceive people.
What Material Girls brought to the table was a large mirror for self-examination. It put into question organisational structure and excessive consumerism. The plot also put into perspective how much power an individual can(not) have in effecting change. Bleakness and hope were realistically blended together in this social commentary of a novel.
Formatting Material Girls
Material Girls relied on an omniscient third-person narrator who alternated between two main characters. At first I didn’t realize it and wondered why everything seemed so jumbled by the time I reached the third chapter.
I had to start reading all over again to understand that odd chapters were about Marla Klein and even chapters were about Ivy Wilde. Once that was clear to me though, I could settled right into the book. Based on the previews of the published hardcover, I think that format has been retained.
All About the Statement
Even though moral preaching wasn’t explicit in Material Girls, morality was woven into the book. An example would be when working conditions of clothing factory workers were touched on. In fact, Material Girls was very much about making a statement against materialism. I see this as a good thing, given how so many works of fiction glorify consumerist lifestyles.
However, I thought that the focus on capitalism overshadowed other aspects of the book. On one hand, it starkly brought out the unfairness of the large employee bases benefitting the top few in the organisations. On the other, the prose fell a bit flat and the characters weren’t as nuanced as I had hoped.
Nonetheless, Material Girls didn’t offer an easy resolution to the problems that these two girls faced. Instead it demonstrated the myriad of issues that they dealt with, as they tried to figure out what they believed was right or wrong or even best served them.