Recommended for ages 12-18
Imagine a world where teenagers’ tastes drive commerce. Fashion trends? Voted on my teen judges. Tween programming and music stars rule the day, setting trends and acting out carefully crafted roles and personas. But guess what? A handful of adults are still running the show, sitting behind the scenes, letting this new version of child labor run society.
Material Girls takes place in a not too-distant future, where popularity drives everything. Young tweens are picked, after crafting online portfolios, to be called to creative careers in fashion or entertainment; “adequates” are left to do the boring stuff that holds society up – doctors, accountants, that sort of thing. Fashion is paramount, and trends are fast, furious, and make tons of money. People have trendcheckers that scan clothing labels and let you know whether or not you’re still on trend; teenage judges decide what clothes get made. There are no more superstar fashion designers; designers and drafters are relegated to the less glamorous, lower levels of the operation. “Stay Young!” has replaced “See ya!” as a well-wish greeting.
Two narratives make up Material Girls. Marla is a teen judge who finds herself demoted to drafter after disagreeing with her fellow judges’ outrageous tastes one too many times. Told in the first person, we see Marla slowly gaining awareness of society around her, and work with her fellow drafters and adequates to bring about change, through revolution, if necessary.
Ivy is a teen queen pop star who begins questioning her place in society and society in general. Through a third person narrative, we see her growing discomfort with people spending money they can’t afford on outrageous and uncomfortable trends that she, and other teen pop stars like her, seemingly dictate. Her brother’s “tapping” – the process by which kids are called to special careers – doesn’t go as well as planned. She’s tired of living a scheduled, scripted life and just wants to be free, but does she have the courage to see it through?
Material Girls is a brilliant indictment of today’s pop-culture and youth-obsessed society. Blending shades of Brave New World with reality television, this is as much a cautionary tale as it is a parody of today’s society. I loved this story; it provides great topics to discuss in a tween or teen book club setting, and can be read as a sociological text to generate discussion on youth culture, pop culture, and how it affects society as a whole.
This is author Elaine Dimopoulos‘ first book. She’ll be having a book release party at Boston Public Library on May 5, which sounds great for anyone in the area. There’s going to be a slide show with fashion trends that influenced the book and eco-chic swag to win. Weigh in if you get to go!
Material Girls Release Party!
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m.
Abbey Room, Boston Public Library