Violet Greenfield is ordinary in every way. There isn’t anything about her that is above average (at least, that’s the way she feels). The only thing that anyone ever notices about her is her freakish height – 6’1’’. And she’s only a high school senior - who knows what will happen after that inevitable growth spurt in college! Forget being part of the BKs, the popular crowd at her high school in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Though Violet and her best friends, Roger and Julie, make fun of the BKs (Bee’s Knees), Violet can’t help but secretly wish that she was a part of them.
Violet sees her height as a curse, an undesirable. That is, until a modeling agent named Angela sees her working at the local movie theater. Angela convinces Violet to come to New York City to try out for Fashion Week. After convincing her parents that it’s a golden opportunity, Violet (with her mother in tow) is on her way to the Big Apple to become a model.
And so Violet embarks on a whirlwind journey through the world of modeling that changes her life forever. As she appears on magazine covers and learns the evils of being in the spotlight, she must endure backstabbing “friends” and decide how much being popular really means to her. In the end, Violet must learn what friendship really is and what it means to be a strong person.
Violet on the Runway is really a gem of a book. It doesn’t glorify the life of a model – instead, it shows the nature of that world in all its ugliness. Being a book directed to teens, of course it sugarcoats some areas, trying to establish that there is good everywhere, but overall, it is a healthy look at the difficulties of being a model. It is definitely a reality check for any teen dreaming of a modeling career.
The real strong point of the book is what’s at the heart of it: Violet herself. She is not perfect; indeed, she makes some very bad decisions through the course of the book. What makes it compelling is what she does when she finally learns from them, when she realizes what is important and what really isn’t. It is also heartening to see Violet once she learns to stand up for herself. It’s painful to read about her cowering in a corner when she is nervous and new to the modeling world.
Once she has become a seasoned professional, she approaches modeling with a cool exterior, oblivious to the comments around her. While that is a difficult lesson for a girl of 18 to learn, it is heartening to see what she does with it.
When it comes down to it, this book is a reinvention on a classic theme in teen lit: the unpopular, ordinary girl who is transformed into a radiant beauty and returns to the school and rules over it. Walker provides a satisfying twist: Violet’s personal journey through self doubt to a place of confidence. At the beginning of the book, she constantly fears that the other models will see the plain girl within and know that she doesn’t belong there. She is afraid they will see she is faking, but she slowly learns that validation comes from herself, not from other people. It is a painful realization, but Violet emerges much stronger and wiser than before.
Violet on the Runway is a book for all ages, not just teens. Older readers will remember the pains of high school and will enjoy the escape by living vicariously through Violet. Younger readers will enjoy the depiction of the modeling world, in all its glory and ugliness. This book really does have something for everyone, and it is an incredibly promising start to a brand new series.