I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 5, 2015
Source: the publisher
In Marla Klein and Ivy Wilde’s world, teens are the gatekeepers of culture. A top fashion label employs sixteen-year-old Marla to dictate hot new clothing trends, while Ivy, a teen pop star, popularizes the garments that Marla approves. Both girls are pawns in a calculated but seductive system of corporate control, and both begin to question their world’s aggressive levels of consumption. Will their new “eco-chic” trend subversively resist and overturn the industry that controls every part of their lives
Smart, provocative, and entertaining, this thrilling page-turner for teens questions the cult like mentality of fame and fashion. Are you in or are you out?
I’ve been blogging for two years. In that time, I’ve only had one book that I rated below 3 stars and still reviewed. For me, less than 3 stars usually means a DNF. But in that case – and now in this case, with Material Girls – I feel like I have a lot to say and I feel like I can say it in a constructive, respectful way. It took me a long time to start Material Girls. I tried three times – and I didn’t make it past the second page any of those times – before I was successful. But I was intrigued by the premise and I kept putting it aside, hoping I’d be in the mood for it at some point. I finally managed to read it and I was pretty disappointed. But as bad as this book was, there was obviously SOMETHING about it that I enjoyed, because I didn’t DNF it, couldn’t put it down AND I finished it in a day.
Before I begin, fair warning: This review has spoilers, both minor and major. So read with caution or, if you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t read this review until after you’ve read the book.
So let’s start with the plot. I love Dystopian but, with all the Dystopian books out there, a lot of them are the same or very similar. Material Girls intrigued me because it seemed different. I’m not a huge fashion person, but I hoped it would be about more than that – that it would have a greater lesson, or something. Sadly, it was almost exclusively about fashion. For those who read Dystopian, this was basically the “rebellion” happening against the “Big Five” fashion houses instead of the entire government.
In this world, kids are “Tapped” at 13 to work in a certain creative industry, at a certain company and in a certain role. And they do that until they’re 16-19 and then they’re considered obsolete and either demoted or let go. So… You peak in your career before you’re even out of your teens. If you aren’t “Tapped,” you’re considered an “Adequate” and take on “menial” jobs like being a teacher, doctor, etc. People who are Tapped look down on the Adequate’s and treat them as lesser human beings. Basically, as with any typical Dystopian, this creates the divide that sparks a rebellion.
Marla is at the top of the food chain at one of the Big Five fashion houses, but she speaks up to defend fashions that no one else likes. This gets her demoted. Of course, getting demoted means she falls in with the group that desires to rebel and “fix the system.” Marla doesn’t have any significant character growth until 73% in to the book, roughly. She wasn’t very likable, though I did feel bad for her when she lost everything. Her story ended in an intriguing way, however, giving me hope that things might turn out okay.
Ivy is a hugely successful pop star who’s tired of her image and wants to change it up in order to get her ex-boyfriend back. Unlike Marla, she had a lot of character growth in the beginning. Unlike Marla, her character growth became stagnant roughly half-way in to the book and then tapered off until she ended up right back where she stared at the beginning of the book. Only, she was worse off by the end than she was at the beginning, in my opinion. Honestly, I had high hopes for her and the way her story ended was very disappointing.
I was incredibly annoyed and upset with the way Marla and Ivy’s friendship ended. Them working together was incredibly predictable, but I thought they’d be together at the end, fighting the good fight or something. I didn’t like the way Felix came between them. That whole weird love triangle was just… weird. And unnecessary. Ivy acted as though Marla was an evil home-wrecker, when Marla didn’t even know about Ivy and Felix’s history until after the fact.
There were a lot of secondary characters in this book and I really didn’t connect with any of them and, therefore, didn’t really care about them. Most of the were shallow and had no sense of loyalty. Marla’s best friend and boyfriend were quick to dump her and run when they thought associating with her would jeopardize their Tap positions. Everyone was mean to each other, doing anything they could to stay relevant and at the top. It was heartbreaking to see some of the things that happened. And a lot of the characters blended together, so I had a hard time remembering who was who.
My biggest beef with this book was the ending. It was disappointing, anti-climatic and left me hanging. The rebellion was snuffed out and nothing really changed. At one point, Vivienne mentioned that change doesn’t happen over night, so I understand why the rebellion fizzled and I get the point the author was trying to make – it takes years and years and constant fighting to make change happen. But as a reader reading a book, this made for a very disappointing ending. I felt jipped, like I’d spent my time reading this book for nothing. I guess the lesson is “be the change you want to see.” Don’t give up, even if you lose. It’s a great lesson, but it made the ending feel anti-climatic and unfinished.
Despite all that, there must have been SOMETHING good/interesting about this book because I never DNF’d and I finished it in roughly a day. But I honestly don’t know why. I have no clue why I held on or what intrigued me so much. I guess I connected with these characters on some level, enough to want to know how their stories ended and if they got their happily ever after. The plot/world kept me intrigued enough that I couldn’t put it down and read it super fast. But if you asked me for exact reasons why I kept reading, or what about it was interesting enough… Well, I couldn’t tell you. It was entertaining in some level, though.
I think if I knew this was part of a duology, trilogy or series, I wouldn’t mind the ending as much. If I knew that at some point, we’d get closure for these characters, that there was a point to the rebellion (and it was successful), I’d give this book the benefit of the doubt and maybe attempt to pick up the second book when it released. Who knows, if we get a second book, I might even come back and revise this review and bump it up to a 3-star rating. But until that happens, I’m standing firm with my rating and my reasons why.
I have a lot more thoughts on this book and I could discuss them all in great detail. But, as always, I hate thinking that my reviews might discourage someone from reading a book. I might not have enjoyed Material Girls, but someone else might love it. I saw a number of positive 4-star reviews for it on Goodreads. I will NEVER tell someone NOT to read a book. Though I won’t go out of my way to recommend it, I won’t tell you not to read it, either. So if you were excited for this book, give it a chance. You might love it! I truly hope you do! If you love fashion, especially, then this book is likely for you. If you DO read it and DO love it, let me know in the comments – tell me why you loved it!