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The International Writers Magazine: Young Fiction

Fashionistas: Irina by Sarra Manning (Book 3)
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books (20 Mar 2008)
ISBN-10: 0340932228
ISBN-13: 978-0340932223

Aby Davis

Irina Kerchenko is trying to nick a dress from a Moscow Prada when she is spotted. Not by the police, but by a glamorous couple who ask her if she’d like to be a model. Sarra Manning’s latest instalment in the Fashionistas sequence follows her rise from petty thief to highly strung diva intent on proving she’s more than the grumpy, gangly Russian girl everyone else sees.

Growing up, I was never a fan of the kind of ‘teen chick lit’ Fashionistas epitomises, and at first glance, the book made me grimace with the snobbery of someone who grew up believing girls who straightened their hair every day and painted their nails at lunchtime were losers. Teenage prejudice aside, I found myself quickly absorbed into Irina’s story, relishing the sheer escapism Manning offers. She writes with the fluidity and easy going charm that made her so popular with readers of teen mag J17 of which she was a frequent columnist.

Nonethless, Irina is the most unpleasant character I have read of in a long time! She swaggers and hisses and spits, thundering down the cat walk with all the charm and delicacy of a rhino with a headache...albeit with great legs.

Manning tries to add dimension to the misunderstood model, after all she rose from rags to riches extremely quickly and was always told by her mother that ‘You’re no good, you’re just another mouth to feed, you’ve disappointed me from the moment you were born’. And it doesn’t help the poor girl that her agency, Fierce, accommodate her in a house with three other models, each with ego’s as exaggerated as their eyelashes. But it is difficult to empathise with a character who is so relentlessly horrible to everyone she meets, despite the fact that Manning so clearly wants us to see the soft squidgy centre. Even token love interest Javier fails to get her to be nice to him, and he’s a hunky male model turned photographer with a penchant for karaoke and a nice Spanish accent.

Fashionistas could offer an insight into the horrors of the fashion world and its inhabitants, or it could be taken as fluffy escapism into the ‘dream’ lifestyle of many a star struck teenage girl. However, I had to lend my mind to a serious suspension of disbelief and force my scepticism into the pit of my stomach many a time. When first approached, Irina worries she’s about to be trafficked into prostitution, in the real world...this is definitely more likely than a young girl being swept off her feet and clad in Versace: voila! Instant Supermodel!

Regardless of my cynicism, I enjoyed the book and Sarra Manning’s friendly style (if not so friendly protagonist) spurred me on to finish it. Teenage girls who read Teen Vogue will love this, without feeling bitterly jealous they’re not in Irina’s shoes...which we’re informed frequently by the moaning model, hurt quite a bit.
Aby Davis Aprli 2008
  abydavis at

Aby studies Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth

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