Meat Market by Juno Dawson

A review of the Young Adult coming-of-age novel Meat Market by Juno Dawson.

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Juno Dawson is a British author who was born in West Yorkshire and now resides in the coastal city of Brighton. She began writing Young Adult fiction and non-fiction while working as a Primary School teacher. Dawson has contributed to a very important aspect of life for teenagers, whether it be in her writing, or by speaking out against prejudice, and in 2014 Dawson won the Queen of Teen award. She is a well-known and renowned voice regarding sexuality, identity, literature, and education, and never lacks lustre; her passion, and her intelligence regarding what teenagers go through in terms of identity and sexuality is prevalent in her work, and this is what makes a novel like Meat Market incredibly important, and appealing.

The novel introduces Jana, who is sixteen, tall, awkward, and beautiful—the Vogue kind of beautiful. While on a school trip, Jana is scouted by Prestige Models, and begins to question her identity, looks, and body even more so than she probably already was. The way that Dawson slowly introduces the narrative that so many young people live through each day—the battle of body image—is done in an incredibly sensitive and delicate way that mirrors the process of how small seeds grow in one’s brain.

As Jana is only sixteen, she seems to live in a limbo between childhood and adulthood. One moment she is in the garden with her friends, practicing to catwalk in her mother’s high heels, falling around like a child, and the next she is a model who evokes sex and edge. Although this novel can be seen as an exposé of the harshness of the fashion industry, the contradiction of Jana’s two worlds illustrates how it feels being of an age where you are not an adult, but no longer a child. Narratives such as this are what makes Dawson’s work so relatable and accessible for the everyday teenager.

However, Juno Dawson has said herself that she had “wanted to write a story about the dark side of the fashion industry for years,” which is not something that can go without merit. Dawson “almost abandoned this novel,” until “the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke. And #MeToo. And #TimesUp. And then Cameron Russell’s #MyJobShouldNotIncludeAbuse campaign—directly calling out predators in the fashion industry.” At this point, Dawson “realised that Meat Market is part of a much bigger feminist conversation.” Again, Juno Dawson is advocating for much more than just entertainment in her work.

The exploration of narratives like this are what makes Juno Dawson an important and unique author, because not everyone writes with a point these days. Meat Market is an incredible novel, it is well-written, and the characters are believable. Every young teen, adult, and especially anyone who works with young people should read this novel.

Kirsty-Louise is a published author and poet with a BA hons in English Literature. Working as a Secondary English Teacher, dog walks on the coast, and reading books pass her time in Ramsgate & Margate.

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