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