Talented teens vie for a highly coveted fashion scholarship.
British Columbian Juby (The Truth Commission, 2015, etc.) here presents the small-town (her own hometown of Nanaimo) drama of two public high school students who have their hearts set on gaining entry to an elite private arts school. Both Charlene “Charlie” Dean, a fashion-obsessed sophomore, and John Thomas-Smith, a “calm-and-aloof” type whose passion is metalworking, seek to better their circumstances and pursue their artistic dreams by winning the fashion-design competition for a one-year scholarship to Green Pastures Academy, which boasts “the best fashion program of any high school in the country” and which, incidentally, neither of their families can afford. Though seemingly antagonists, alternating narrators John and Charlie, both white, serve rather as dueling protagonists whose compelling struggles are revealed through the distinctively voiced diaries they must keep in the months leading up to the fashion show. Juby’s thoughtful bildungsroman excels in showcasing and normalizing those on society’s fringe—whether it be in her bold portrayal of differing socio-economic class issues or subtle examination of gender identity. Her tale gains great momentum from the grit and ingenuity Charlie, who believes the “most chic thing is self-sufficiency,” exhibits in tackling hurdles, resulting from being a child of drug abusers, alongside John, who’s also a child of largely absent parents and whose snarky bitterness makes an excellent foil to Charlie’s ebullience.
Entertaining, smart, and inspiring. (Fiction. 12-18)