Review: Material Girls by Elaine Dimopoulos

Material GirlsPublished: May 5, 2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 336
Format: e-ARC

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?

I’m not big on fashion. I have next to no interest in it, really. But when I received an e-mail from NetGalley about Material Girls, I decided to give it a shot. The tagline (“Revolution never goes out of style.”) interested me, and I really liked the style of the cover. I’ve also been trying to expand my reading horizons where I can, so I’m glad I gave this book a shot.

Material Girls is a bit of a mashup of fashion, science/speculative fiction, and satire. It also brings up a lot of points about sustainability in the fashion industry, society’s obsession with celebrities, and worker’s rights. I thought what it was aiming for was interesting, but the novel isn’t super lengthy, and while it covered angles about celebrities, fashion trends, and environmental awareness well, there just wasn’t enough time to focus on other aspects of the story, which left it feeling like it had spread itself a bit too thin. That said, I thought it excelled when it came to discussing issues of environmental sustainability and the downright absurdity of some fashion trends.

When I initially picked up Material Girls, I was expecting a dystopian society with a focus on the fashion industry, and that’s sort of what you get, but there doesn’t appear to be any kind of militaristic government or anything, like you might see with a lot of other current dystopian/speculative fiction novels. In Dimopoulous’ novel, our current expectations of how the job industry works, and how a lot of major entertainment industries work, has been turned upside down, and she built her world’s society around that concept. I really liked how she switched things up, but on the other hand, I REALLY wanted more history on how this society formed. While teens often start some of today’s trends, their opinions and ideas also generally aren’t treated seriously and aren’t given the same weight that you would see from an adult, so how did the Junior and Superior Courts come to exist? I thought it was interesting that the teens in this society were given the majority of the power in the fashion, movie, and videogame industries – or at least, they had the illusion of it.

This book also has a TON of characters. I was a bit overwhelmed at first. It alternates between Marla’s chapters, which are told from a first-person POV, and Ivy’s are told from a third-person POV. Both of them have their own cast of characters in their narratives, and the number of names adds up really quickly. It would have good to see the cast culled a tiny bit, so we could see more of specific characters in the supporting cast – I felt like there were maybe a few too many to really get to know anyone outside of Marla and Ivy, with very few exceptions – but the characters Marla and Ivy associated with added much different tones to their stories, and I did like that aspect of it. It just would have been nice to see more development in the supporting cast.

The pacing is also fairly slow, so this book won’t be for everyone. Toward the end, the pacing does pick up quite a bit, but while things are happening early on, the book takes a while to get where it’s going, and that will make some readers turn away. That said, I thought the issues Material Girls explores are important ones, and I think it’s worth giving this book a shot to see if it works for you.

There are some darker undertones to the story, and I would definitely like to see those explored more in future novels in this world, if possible. Material Girls seems like a deceptively light novel at first glance, especially compared to a lot of other novels that explore similar issues, but it’s also quite unsettling once all is said and done.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Review: Seed by Lisa Heathfield

SeedPublished: March 10, 2015 by Running Press Kids
Pages: 336
Format: e-ARC

All that Pearl knows can be encapsulated in one word: Seed. It is the isolated community that she was born into. It is the land that she sows and reaps. It is the center of her family and everything that means home. And it is all kept under the watchful eye of Papa S.

At fifteen years old, Pearl is finally old enough to be chosen as Papa S’s Companion. She feels excitement… and surprising trepidation that she cannot explain. The arrival of a new family into the Seed community – particularly the teenage son, Ellis – only complicates the life and lifestyle that Pearl has depended upon as safe and constant.

Ellis is compelling, charming, and worldly, and he seems to have a lot of answers to questions Pearl has never thought to ask. But as Pearl digs to the roots of the truth, only she can decide what she will allow to come to the surface.

“Seed loves her.
Seed will never let her go.”

I’ve had a really hard time writing a review for Seed. Part of it, I think, is that I’m afraid that for some reason, whatever I write won’t be good enough. I really loved this book. It kind of horrified me, sure, but I also couldn’t put it down.

Fifteen-year-old Pearl is part of Seed… and as it turns out, Seed is a cult that worships nature, led by a man known only as “Papa S.” There’s incredibly dark undertones throughout this book – even when things are calm and relatively “happy” from the narrator’s POV, the reader knows something isn’t right, and that was part of what made it so hard for me to tear myself away from this book.

When a woman, her teenage son, and young daughter join the cult from the “Outside,” the son, Ellis, begins to make Pearl question some of what she’s been taught.

This book isn’t for the faint of heart – there were parts that definitely made me feel sick to my stomach while reading. I just wanted so badly for Pearl and the other characters to be safe.

I LOVED Heathfield’s prose. I think it was one of my favorite things about the book. Pearl’s voice is lyrical and innocent at times, and it really helped set the tone for the book. Some of the situations in the book, juxtaposed with Pearl’s voice, really made it hit home that Pearl didn’t know any differently from the way she’d been raised.

I was left wondering if there would be a second book, and I really hope there will be. If not, I know I’m definitely looking forward to Lisa Heathfield’s next book regardless.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Review: Placid Girl by Brenna Ehrlich

Placid GirlPublishing Date: August 25, 2015 by All Ages Press
Pages: 206
Format: e-ARC

Punk was created for the malcontents, something that loner and aspiring drummer Hallie understands all too well. Trapped in a boring suburban life – dysfunctional parents included! – Hallie drowns her angst in the angry songs of Haze, a masked musician who has not been heard from in five years. So naturally she’s surprised – and more than a little skeptical – when someone who seems to be Haze starts flirting with her via her favorite photo-sharing app. Is he who he says he is? What does he want from her? The questions only multiply when Hallie – along with bandmate Sarah and aspiring music journalist Steve – roadtrip to Haze’s comeback gig to unmask the reclusive musician once and for all.

“I live in a placid town by a placid little seaside, where everyone is born and bred to wear placid little faces. I live by a placid little bridge that goes up and down, separating one side of the placid little river from the other at placid little intervals. But I am a roiling-insides girl and I feel the tide coming in and I need to escape.”

This book really surprised me! When I read the blurb, I was expecting a contemporary roadtrip-type YA, and while that’s sorta what I got, I also got something entirely different.

I’ll admit that it took me a while to warm up to Placid Girl. I had a hard time, initially, growing accustomed to Hallie’s voice. Pieces of the prose definitely didn’t work for me – I mentally stumbled a few times while reading because certain imagery just didn’t work for me at all – but I pressed on, and I’m glad I did. This book was so much more than I first thought. The book is also a bit slow to start, but once things got rolling, I had a really hard time tearing myself away.

Music was a pretty huge part of my late high school & early college years, though not as much as it was for some of my friends… but the musical aspects of this story fit comfortably into that part of me. That was sooooo nice. I enjoyed the lyric snippets, especially. Some weren’t to my taste, but I really liked others. There’s also a really creepy undertone threaded throughout the book, which definitely kept me turning the pages, wondering what was going to come out of it.

Overall, Placid Girl is a slow build in the beginning, but it took me places I DEFINITELY didn’t expect. I really enjoyed it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for the opportunity to read this book!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars