Melissa Walker's YA book series about a teen who makes it big in the modeling world has been on my to-read list for way too long. I finally got around to checking out Violet on the Runway and Violet By Design this month (the third in the series, Violet in Private, comes out in August), and I found them entertaining and insightful. Walker taps into the America's Next Top Model fantasies of young readers, but she delivers a lot more than just jet-setting fluff.
Despite her rising star status, Violet is a down-to-earth character struggling to find her own voice and develop meaningful relationships and friendships. Meanwhile, everyone in her life seems to have their opinions about what she should do and how she should act. Most real girls aren't showered with designer swag and ushered through VIP entrances like Violet is, but I think most readers will relate to Violet's quest to be true to herself.
One of my favorite plot lines (spoiler alert!) is in Violet By Design, when Violet talks to the press about the insane pressures models face to be thin (her quotes sounded strikingly similar to what real-life top model Coco Rocha had to say earlier this month at the CFDA Health Initiative discussion). As a result of her candor, she is chosen to be the face of fictional designer-of-the-moment Mirabella's campaign. "Violet believes that all girls should have a positive body image, and that we in the fashion industry have a responsibility to our young fans. Our fall campaign will embrace the mission of self confidence, health, and 'keeping it real,'" Mirabella announces to a crowd of reporters at a press conference. Behind the scenes, she tells Violet's agent that Violet needs to lose five pounds.
Does this kind of hypocrisy exist in the fashion industry? Yep, absolutely. In the universe of YA fiction, Violet is the perfect candidate to expose it. In the real world, I can think of a few dedicated power players who could do the job well.
Related: NPR: Three Books for Teens Who Hate to Read