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Review of The Fashion Committee

The Fashion Committee: A Novel of Art, Crime, and Applied Design
by Susan Juby
High School    Viking    311 pp.
5/17    978-0-451-46878-9    $18.99

From the world of artsy teens in small-town British Columbia first introduced in Juby’s The Truth Commission (rev. 3/15) comes another sly, boldly narrated contemporary tale. Two public high school students — relentlessly optimistic Charlie Dean and acerbic John Thomas-Smith — are vying for a scholarship to Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design in the fashion design program. Charlie’s fashion obsession has always helped her cope with her parents’ substance abuse; now she is an impeccably dressed, comically over-prepared candidate. John, a gifted metalworker whose only hope of attending art school is this scholarship, plans to slip into Green Pastures on the fashion track and then switch to metal arts. Alternating entries from Charlie’s and John’s fashion diaries detail preparations for the climactic fashion show. Charlie’s voice dominates — “Want to be a hedge fund manager? Wear a beautifully tailored suit, even if you have to wear a fast-food uniform over it,” she suggests. “Dressing for your dreams makes them 75 to 85 percent more likely to come true!” — but John’s dry misanthropy provides relief from Charlie’s manic perkiness. Even fashion-phobic readers will be caught up in both the giddy apprehension of artistic competition and the thought-provoking creative questions that arise from it. Does passion necessarily beget talent? Can an artistic bent transcend medium? This is whip-smart coming-of-age comedy with memorable characters, welcome diversity in representation of race, ability, and sexual orientation, and lots to say about talent, ambition…and haute couture.

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Jessica Tackett MacDonald

Jessica Tackett MacDonald is a collection development librarian at the Boston Public Library, specializing in youth and teen collections. She holds masters degrees in library science and children’s literature from Simmons College.

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