Meat Market is a absolutely awesome. It’s up there with Clean as my favourite Juno Dawson book so far. First up, look at that stunning cover (it is so much shinier in real life). I adore a foil cover; I may actually be a magpie.
Meat Market opens with Jana being scouted by a modelling agency. Jana doesn’t understand why they would scout her. She doesn’t see anything glamorous in herself like the scouts do. She is very self-depreciating, very conscious of her body and perceived faults. She thinks she looks like a “walking bag of knuckles”. Jana is really witty and has a great way with words. I loved her voice.
I also loved her relationship with Ferdy. He is adorable, he’s so supportive and wants the best for Jana, but the story shows us that this world Jana lives in as a model has a big impact on relationships; it is difficult to maintain the closeness that they had when they rarely see each other, as well as the change in dynamics as Jana’s wealth and popularity increase.
Money is one of the big themes of the book. Jana’s mother has reservations about letting her daughter model, but Jana can make more money on one job than her family have ever dreamed of having. It shows how tempting it is, and how modelling is sold as this amazing and glamorous career where you can get rich easily. The reality is somewhat different. For Jana, the money she earns is life changing, but there is a disconnect between that and what the industry think she could be earning, so she is pushed do small jobs for lower wages to build her profile. She is pushed to travel and to stay in some grim places to build her career. Meat Market explores what Jana will sacrifice to make things better for her family, and the ways that she will allow others to treat her in pursuit of this.
At the modelling agency everyone is so loud, so overly enthusiastic about everything. We really get a sense from the outset of what a superficial world this is. They took Jana in because they liked her, but they instantly want to change her. It starts slowly, wearing heels, getting her hair cut, so slowly that we almost don’t realise how different she is becoming.
There is an emphasis on food and dieting in the book, disguised as caring about the health and fitness of the models. There is a lot of talk of wanting Jana to be healthy but they are very prescriptive about what she should eat and when. It is terrifying to watch how this constant niggling so easily leads to disordered eating and mental illness in the models. There’s a huge emphasis on weight and size, though the agencies are careful not to say it in this way. I loved Jana’s defiant steak in this. If she wants a burger, she will have one. She is determined to retain some sense of herself throughout, but we see as the story goes on how the industry gradually erodes Jana’s sense of self, until she finds herself staring at her own picture on a billboard and not recognising herself, and doubting herself when she is assaulted at work.
Meat Market is a scathing indictment of the fashion industry, it is dark and terrifying, but ultimately hopeful. It’s one of the best books I’ve read. I cannot recommend it highly enough.