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Melissa Walker

Dear Author

REVIEW: Violet in Private by Melissa Walker

Dear Ms. Walker,

book reviewWhile I’ve yet to read the first book in this series, Violet on the Runway, I enjoyed the second installment, Violet by Design, a great deal. So when Jane mentioned she’d received a copy and would be sending it on to me, I was very happy.

For readers new to the series, the Violet books are a young adult series about Violet Greenfield, a teenage wallflower who’s scouted to be an international runway model. What sets these books apart from other young adult “makeover” novels (in which the plain jane heroine is transformed into a hottie) is that Violet is portrayed as that insecure girl next door and never becomes anything less than real and sympathetic. She’s a conflicted heroine, torn between basking in the spotlight (a definite boost to the ego of a high school outcast) and realizing that maybe this isn’t the world for her.

Violet in Private picks up where Violet by Design left off, with Violet trying to leave the modeling world and start a normal life as a college girl by attending Vassar. But as she learned in the previous novel, saying she’s going to leave is much easier than doing it. Not only does she have an internship at a fashion magazine, she continues to deal with the fallout from being the headliner of a modeling campaign emphasizing healthy, natural beauty while embodying everything that’s wrong with the modelling industry. Violet had hoped to enjoy relative obscurity at Vassar but it turns out she’s not safe even there: she meets one of her biggest fans, and the hypocrisy inherent in her modeling campaign becomes the focus of debate in one of her classes. On top of that, she still struggles with her relationship with Roger, her childhood friend and the guy she’s grown to love.

I find it interesting that Violet’s characterization comes full circle here. She started as a plain jane wallflower, emerged as the next hot thing in industry, and now wants to return to a quieter, if not entirely normal, life. She’s all but isolated herself from the high-speed fashion world, no longer hitting the NYC clubs with her modeling friends and no longer jetsetting to different parts of the world to walk runways.

Even so, she still remembers she has a voice and influence that, when used, can become a force for good. She writes entries on her MySpace blog. In reaction to being ambushed in class about her marketing campaign, she writes a column for the college newspaper, which gets picked up by one of the larger papers and leads her to landing that magazine internship. She speaks to students about the fashion industry and its body image issues. Violet may be becoming a pariah in the fashion world, but I find her actions and choices a breath of fresh air.

I particularly liked how Violet struggles with her own body image issues. Since taking her modeling sabbatical and enjoying the college diet of junk food and alcohol, she’s obviously gained some weight. But since she was stick thin to begin with, this only results in her reaching a healthy, normal weight. Violet is over six feet tall. Expecting her to weigh 100 pounds is unreasonable and extremely unhealthy. But as shown in the previous book, an extra 10 pounds led to her “healthy beauty” marketing campaign sponsor telling her to lose weight and receiving the nickname of La Gordita from the fashion world. In Private, it’s even worse. Her agent scorns her. The fashion world gossips about her. Even her co-workers at the fashion magazine call her fat. It’s only another example of how distorted body image gets in the fashion world and by extension, in our society since we’re bombarded with these images every day.

I loved how Violet grows from the shy, unsure girl we first meet to someone who takes control and puts her foot down. Even though she becomes a fashion model, she remained the same on the inside, which is why Violet sometimes becomes a doormat, never saying no, always agreeing to what other people tell her to do. Violet standing up to her agent was a wonderful thing, and I could have cheered when she confronted Roger towards the end of the book. I don’t want to give away what happens but that scene drove home just much Violet has come into her own. The girl we first met would never have done or said what she did, and it was nice to see how much she’d grown. B+

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade paperback from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

REVIEW: Violet by Design by Melissa Walker

REVIEW: Violet by Design by Melissa Walker

Dear Ms. Walker,

While I’ve read and enjoyed novels about supermodels in the past, I was a bit leery when I received your book. On one hand, I’m fascinated by the fashion industry. On the other hand, I hate the message it sends to teenaged girls about body image and here we have a young adult novel about an up and rising teenaged model. Add to that the unavoidable cattiness we see on shows like America’s Next Top Model, and I just didn’t know what to expect. Thankfully, not only did this book neatly sidestep the easy path of backstabbing cattiness, it turned out the main character had many of the same concerns I did.

Violet Greenfield was once a high school social outcast. Being too tall and too thin, she was just never able to fit in. Boys didn’t want to date a girl taller than them and the popular clique wouldn’t give her the time of day. That all changed during senior year when she was discovered and signed with a modeling agency. But her splash into the high stakes world of international modeling proved too overwhelming and she quit. Violet has since graduated and is spending the summer with longtime best friends Julie and Roger before they leave for college when she’s lured back to the modeling world by a trip to Brazil for Fashion Week.

Violet is surprisingly easy to sympathize with. She has all the same insecurities you’d expect in a teenaged girl on the verge of adulthood. She wants to find true love but that’s easier said than done. The fashion world’s full of playboys and men out to use you for their latest promotional campaign, and it can be hard to differentiate between them and those who are genuine. She wants to see and experience the world and modeling is a good way to do that, but it also means choosing between her burgeoning career and her friends. I found that conflict compelling since most college students don’t have that problem, which makes it easy to empathize with Violet when it becomes obvious she can’t rely on her friends for career advice.

But most of all, I liked how Violet struggled with body image and its place in the modeling world. I thought it was very realistic when her quick blog entries on MySpace ended up splashed across headlines and sparked an international controversy. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about Foot in Mouth Disease here at Dear Author and while Violet’s blog entries weren’t examples of FiMD, they definitely caused a media frenzy. It only drove home the point you never know who’s reading and now considered a model, anything Violet writes on her MySpace blog ends up being taken as the words of a model. It’s a lot of responsibility for an eighteen year old from a small North Carolina town. It’s hard enough being in the spotlight and being forced into the role of spokesperson. It’s even harder when you’re struggling between advancing your career and staying true to your beliefs. I thought Violet landing a campaign encouraging positive body image for teenage girls and then being asked to lose weight to be their cover girl embodied the heart and soul of her struggle.

I have a weakness for friends becoming more storylines so I was delighted by Violet and Roger’s relationship. In fact, watching Violet come to the realization that Roger has always been in love with her and that perhaps she has always felt the same way too was so enjoyable, I wanted more of it. But I suppose that’s what series are for, and I have the first book to occupy my attention in the mean time while I wait for the next book. B

My regards,
Jia

This book can be purchased in trade market.   Its official release date is March 4, 2008.