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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Catwalk* by Deborah Gregory- young adult book review  
by Deborah Gregory
Grades 7+ 304 pages Delacorte June 2008 Paperback    

Catwalk is the story of Pashmina Purrstein, a high school student at New York’s prestigious fashion high school, Fashion International. Each year, the school hosts the Catwalk competition – and the winner gets a trip to Florence, the resources to start their own fashion line, Louis Vuitton luggage – need I say more? In order to even be considered for the competition, Pashmina must be nominated and win leadership of a “house” within the school, but there are only five slots for this highly competitive position.

Even if she does manage to form the House of Pashmina, there’s still a manner of winning the competition. She would have to put together a stellar team of designers, make-up artists, assistants and more, recruiting solely from the halls of the Fashion Institute. The only problem? The other four house heads would be doing the same thing at the same time. It’s up to Pashmina to make sure that her house recruits the best talent so they have the best chance of winning the competition and getting to Florence.

Catwalk is another entry in the expanding literature on teen fashionistas, the most memorable of which are Melissa Walker’s Violet series. However, Catwalk is very different from other books in this genre; by placing the events at a fashion school, the escapade is completely legitimized. Gone are the choices between school and modeling, between friends and fashion. In this case, they are all one in the same. The author loses a major source of conflict while gaining an entirely new perspective on the issues.

This book is definitely directed toward teens rather than those that cater to both the YA and adult market. While teens will probably enjoy this book, especially the younger ages, adults will find the writing style too youth-oriented and complicated to have any real appeal. For example, at one point, Pashmina says
“I know that Aphro hates bling-bling on her boca because she thinks it makes her lips too plumpalicious, even though I wish I had a smoocher like hers.”
It took me some time to decipher what these sentences meant, and indeed, the entire book is like that to the point where Gregory included a glossary at the end of the book. But Gregory is a master at appealing to teens, as she is the author of the famed Cheetah Girls series, so I have no doubt that this tactic will be a hit with the younger ages. However, it does effectively alienate any adults who might be interested in reading this book.

One thing I will say about the book is that it promotes good values that any parents would want their child exposed to, especially during the impressionable teenage years. Pashmina’s design philosophy is to cater to both thin and plus-size women; not once in the book is the pressure to be thin mentioned. And everyone who encounters Pashmina’s philosophy immediately agrees that it is a good one. However, the book also includes a lot of brand-name dropping, of which I question the wisdom. But it is safe to say that a book about fashion has to include famous designers, so it would be difficult to avoid.

Catwalk is the first in what is likely to be a long and successful series. The book itself is very short, only covering the first part of the Catwalk competition – teens interested in fashion will probably enjoy this book, as well as all its sequels to come.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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