By Ekta R. Garg
May 13, 2015
Rated: Borrow it
Two young women challenge the corporate structure of their city by pushing the edges of the accepted fashion boundaries. When their “betters” push back, the two teens must decide whether they’ll conform to the status quo or continue with their cause. Author Elaine Dimopoulos offers readers her first YA novel in the enjoyable but slightly underwhelming novel Material Girls.
In the city of La Reina and its surrounding areas, children and teens drive the economy. Seventh graders find out during the school year whether they will get to leave school and join the dominant creative industries or be relegated to the less desirable industries (including science and math fields) and continue with school. Marla Klein knows how those seventh graders feel; it wasn’t too long ago that she waited for her assignment, and she knows people envy her assignment to work with one of the Big Five fashion houses.
Not only does Marla work with the fashion house; she actually sits on the court that decides what trends will go from concept to production and what trends will stay in the basement on the sketchpads of the trend drafters. Marla relishes her work, and her superiors have praised her keen eye for fashion. Lately, however, the other judges on the court have disagreed with her opinions. Despite a friendly warning to stop offering so many dissents, Marla doesn’t give in to professional pressure and eventually gets kicked off the court.
As a singer Ivy Wilde enjoys the position of the top pop performer. Her legions of fans worship her, and all the top fashion houses vie for her attention. If Ivy Wilde wears a fashion line, everyone will start to wear it and the fashion trend will go viral. When a new teeny bopper enters the scene, however, Ivy finds that those brands and the hottest locations in town have begun dividing their attention. Ivy needs to do something to bring the attention back to her, and the odd dance club disturbance just won’t cut it anymore.
Marla and Ivy meet under interesting circumstances, and after a conversation they each realize they can help one other. They decide to create a brand new line of fashion that focuses on the environment and urges people to recycle old trends instead of clamoring for new ones. Despite her demotion at work, Marla and her new co-workers begin working on Ivy’s eco-friendly outfits with excitement. For them this isn’t just a shot at escaping obscurity; it’s an opportunity for a revolution against the current paradigm.
Author Elaine Dimopoulos’s first young adult book offers the familiar feel of dystopian fiction and sets it in the world of fashion. Contrary to true dystopian tales, Material Girls doesn’t unleash heavy artillery and the characters don’t hunt for blood. The biggest stakes in the book come in the form of prestige and cultural relevance. Dimopoulos walks a fine line between irreverence and irrelevance and for the most part comes down on the right side of that equation.
Once in a while, though, readers may find it hard to buy into a dystopian concept set in the fashion industry. Publicity materials bill Material Girls as “Project Runway meets Divergent”. Well, not quite. The book certainly follows suit with its comparison to Project Runway, but similarities between Dimopoulos’s book and something as heavy-handed as Divergent or its contemporaries becomes harder to believe. True dystopian novels offer readers life-or-death premises; in the end Material Girls is, after all, about fashion trends and what people wear from season to season.
Dimopoulos may have set herself up with an overly ambitious plot, but her intention comes through loud and clear and readers will certainly applaud her for it. She also offers readers some surprises along the way, redeeming the book again and again. I recommend readers Borrow Material Girls.