May 24, 2017 • Cee • Reviews

The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby • May 23, 2017 • Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
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Charlie Dean is a style-obsessed girl who eats, sleeps, and breathes fashion. John Thomas-Smith is a boy who forges metal sculptures in his garage and couldn’t care less about clothes. Both are gunning for a scholarship to the private art high school that could make all their dreams come true. Whoever wins the fashion competition will win the scholarship–and only one can win.

Told in the alternating voices of Charlie’s and John’s journals, this hilarious and poignant YA novel perfectly captures what it’s like to have an artistic drive so fierce that nothing–not your dad’s girlfriend’s drug-addicted ex-boyfriend, a soul-crushing job at Salad Stop, or being charged with a teensy bit of kidnapping–can stand in your way.

With black and white art custom-created by fashion and beauty illustrator Soleil Ignacio, the book is a collector’s item, perfect for anyone with a passion for fashion.


I received this book for free from Penguin for review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

First sentence: “I know I probably don’t have to hand this diary in, but if anyone asks for it, I would like it to be wonderfully comprehensive.”

Meet two polar opposites:

  • Charlie Dean: Lives and breathes fashion, frequently incorporates French words into her vocabulary (which she learned from Google Translate), is a loner because of the way she dresses, has an addict of a father who’s trying to stay sober.
  • John-Thomas Smith: Loves to work with metal, doesn’t care about clothing and looks down at this art form, has two friends—Barbra and Booker—who don’t seem to want to grow up.

What do these two have in common? A desire to, one day, attend Green Pastures Academy of Art and Applied Design, a prestigious art school that will set them up for life. These two will compete in a fashion competition to win the coveted scholarship, and learn about what they’re capable of doing if they set their minds to it. 


  • (+) You see how passionate these characters are about fashion.

You’ve gotta admire these teens for how passionate they are about their art form.

Charlie Dean is all about fashion; it’s what makes her feel good and feel the most happiest. She may be a loner because of it, but she doesn’t let it bother her because she has one goal in mind: to be the greatest fashion designer ever.

Although John-Thomas isn’t at all interested in fashion, you have to admire his ambition to do whatever’s necessary to take part in the competition for the Green Pasture scholarship, even if he has to take part in a fashion competition. He’s not a quitter.

  • (+) The chapters alternate between Charlie Dean and John-Thomas Smith’s point of view, showing what struggles these characters are facing. 

Each chapter feature journal entries from Charlie Dean and John-Thomas Smith leading up to the competition day. From the alternating point of views, readers will get a good sense of these rivals and their interest and home life and struggles. It’s not just about the fashion competition they are worried about; they have to deal with struggling parents, snarky friends who don’t understand what they’re doing, dress ideas, and so on.

  • (+) You may find inspiration in Charlie Dean’s fashion advices and John-Thomas’s fashion quotes.

Each alternating chapter feature advice and quotes that are quite inspiring. At the beginning of Charlie Dean’s chapters, she doles out “Charlie Dean Designs Ideas” about how you should dress like it’s your final days on Earth or how to pull off cowboy boots fit for an apocalypse. At the end of John-Thomas’s chapters, there are different fashion quotes that John-Thomas feels fitting for his outlook of the competition, and those can be sardonic quotes about not eating fattening things or quotes that are fitting for his line of “anti fashion t-shirts.” These were quite fun to read.

  • (+) There is absolutely no romance between the two main characters.

They live very separate lives, and their roads only converge when it concerns the fashion competition. Even when that happens, which is a rarity, they don’t become friends that confide in each other. They’re very separate. They’re busy with their own lives—brainstorming about what to make for the competition, who to pick as their model; lying to friends; or tackling family problems. They have their priorities, and it’s mainly the fashion competition and their loved ones.

  • (—) I wish there were more illustrations.

I wanted to see all the clothing come to life! It’s hard to fully imagine the epicness of these dresses/clothing that Charlie Dean is seeing. The few illustrations that were scattered throughout the book is not enough!

  • (—) What is up with hinting about Charlie Dean’s sexuality and never delving into that?

We get so much of John-Thomas’s relationship issues (what a bore), but why not about Charlie Dean? I wanted to see her blossoming relationship with her fellow contestant Jo. It just seemed like something that should’ve explored, especially since it was talked about at the end.

  • (+) It’s about loving yourself with or without clothes.

Should you read The Fashion Committee? A tentative yes? Fashion may not be everybody’s thing, but The Fashion Committee presents two ambitious teenagers who know what they want—a scholarship to Green Pasture—and the things they are dealing with—family/friends problem, social-economic problems, how to grow up, finding inspiration in something they aren’t familiar with or too afraid of tackling. The Fashion Committee confronts these and how to love yourself after being bullied.


3 Responses to “REVIEW • Dress For Your Destiny (The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby)”

  1. I thought this book was cute– glad you liked it. I thought we DEFINITELY could have had more fashion all the way around. MORE Illustrations, more descriptions, more everything. And I agree, it would’ve been nice to see more of Charlie’s romantic life. I guess her story was all about family and John’s was all about relationships.

  2. Rabiah says:

    I really want to read this one–even though I really don’t know much about fashion, I love the sound of it!! Great review :D

  3. Jess C says:

    I have never heard of this book and it sounds delightful ! I kind of find the idea of a YA without a main romance to be refreshing.

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