Meat Market By Juno Dawson
Publisher: Quercus Books
Release Date: 23rd May 2019
Jana Novak’s history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she’s uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she’s unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.
But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn. Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall.
I have been a huge fan of Juno Dawson’s work from the moment I picked up Say Her Name and became terrified of looking in mirrors for a week after! Her writing is spectacular and after reading Clean last year I thought that she had hit her peak! Clean was gripping, heart-wrenching and magnificent, (you can check out my review here) and I can honestly say that the same applies to Meat Market. As a reader who was first introduced to Juno’s work through her thriller and horror novels, I have to say that I have been pleasantly surprised by her contemporaries and am certainly eager to see what she comes out with next!
Jana was an incredibly strong character and seeing her growth throughout the novel was something I really admired. At first, she is perhaps a normal school girl, just doing her best to pass her exams, hang out with her friends and boyfriend and spending time with her family. That is until she is scouted by a modelling agency and everything begins to change – and not all of it is as positive as it first appears to be. Juno draws are from the perceived glamour that fame brings and looks beneath the facade that is used to hide the unpleasant behaviour that the modelling world encompasses.
The overall story is told by Jana looking back, with the beginning of each chapter told in a documentary style with her answering questions. This was something I really enjoyed although I was unsure why Juno choose to layout the story like this until the end when all is made clear. I feel like this went against traditional storytelling and was an interesting and unique style that Juno chooses which added another level to the narrative altogether. Especially as we got to know Jana better and understand her story and what lead to the events which occur throughout the novel.
However, despite the beautiful writing style that doesn’t take away the darker aspects that Juno is challenging here. Not only is Juno considering the inside of the fashion industry and treatment of models but I think she is certainly confronting the idea of appearance, victim-blaming and the rights that we have over our bodies. Meat Market is a complex novel with several layers which reveal themselves more and more as Jana continues her journey in the fashion industry with Jana ultimately working towards finding her own voice.
Meat Market is a gripping, dark and brutal story with moments of light brought by Jana’s friendships, and her family. I particularly loved Jana’s relationship with her mother which was such a strong and positive relationship in her life and especially nice to see in YA fiction.
If you loved Clean or dark and gritty novels with a reflection on real-life then I highly recommend you checking out Meat Market.
Have you read Meat Market? What were your thoughts? Have you read any other Juno Dawson’s novels?