Popsugar Reading Challenge 2020: book 8

Prompt: A book by a trans or non-binary author

Last years I set out to read as many if the CILIP Carnegie long list as possible and read Clean by Juno Dawson and loved it. When Meat Market was published it went straight on to the tbr pile.

What’s it about?

Tall, gangly and androgynous, 16 year old Jana Novak is teased for her looks. At a school trip to Thorpe Park, she is spotted by a talent scout from top model agency, Prestige. Sixth form college and A levels are put on hold as Jana is thrown into the not always glamorous world of modelling.

But fame and fortune come at a price in an industry where pretty girls are dispensable retiring in their early twenties.

What I think:

Meat Market is billed as an “exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry” and Jana certainly experiences the glamour and the grime.

At just 16, Jana is sent around the world by herself from fashion week to photoshoots: Paris, Milan, New York, Tokyo, Dubai. While her friends are studying and heading to Nandos, she is sleeping in crammed apartments and sitting around on the floor waiting to be seen. She is constantly exhausted and permanently hungry.

This book shows that behind the glamour of the final photos and runway shows young women are just commodities and there is little concern for Jana’s physical and mental health.

Prestige director, Maggie, appears to love “her girls”, but she deliberately overlooks bullying and sexual assault as an acceptable price to pay for success. While outwarding appearing to promote health and wellbeing, it is clear that crash dieting is encouraged and the models barely survive long days on apples and water.

Jana attempts to “stay real” and maintain her relationships and home life. But constant travelling and long hours means she is increasingly isolated from people she loves. All of the successful models in the book are incredibly lonely.

Jana’s resilience and her ability to walk away even the financial rewards are astronomical is ultimately what saves her.

I won’t spoil what happens to Jana. But the #MeToo element of the book is both horrifying and empowering. Dawson mentions Cameron Russell’s #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse campaign to fight against abuse in the fashion industry.

I loved her final message to readers of the book:

Finally, to all the girls reading this book: you are so much more than a body. Your body is a house for your brilliant brain, brave heart and powerful voice. It can do amazing things, so care for it, protect it, and – above all – have fun with it.

Juno Dawson: Meat Market

I absolutely loved this book and the characters will stay with me.

Meat Market is available from

Waterstones: click here

Amazon.co.uk: click here

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