New York City fashion editor Anya St. Clair is on the verge of greatness. Her wardrobe is to die for. Her social media is killer. And her career path is littered with the bodies of anyone who got in her way. She’s worked hard to get where she is, but she doesn’t have everything.
Not like Sarah Taft. Anya’s obsession sits one desk away. Beautiful, stylish, and rich, she was born to be a fashion world icon. From her beach-wave blonde hair to her on-trend nail art, she’s a walking editorial spread. And Anya wants to be her friend. Her best friend. Her only friend.
But when Sarah becomes her top competition for a promotion, Anya’s plan to win her friendship goes into overdrive. In order to beat Sarah…she’ll have to become her. Friendly competition may turn fatal, but as they say in fashion: One day you’re in, and the next day you’re dead.
- Title: #FashionVictim
- Author: Amina Akhtar
- Cover Artist: Melanie Sun
- Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
- ISBN: 168331834X
- Publication Date: September 11, 2018
- For Ages: 16+
- Category: Young Adult
- Spooky-Scary or Spooky-Fun? 🎃 Fun.
- Content warnings: fatphobia, eating disorders, self-harm, racism
I’d like to thank Crooked Lane Books for providing a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Satire is a tricky balancing act — you have to maintain tight control of the tone at all times, never veering to the side of broad parody or the side of playing it too straight. And despite all the control it requires, satire must appear effortless in order to work properly. Amina Akhtar walks this literary tightrope with style throughout her debut novel #FashionVictim, a darkly comic send-up of the fashion industry that answers the question: What would happen if American Psycho and The Devil Wears Prada had a baby and named it Apple?
Akhtar, a former fashion writer and editor, simultaneously delivers a tense thriller and a stiletto-sharp satire that skewers the racism, misogyny, classism, and hypocrisy of high fashion. She cannily keeps the pace breakneck, grabbing the reader’s hand and dragging them along for a wildly fun ride through the superficial world of figurative and literal backstabbers at a top fashion magazine. Junior editor Anya St. Clair’s mind is deliciously warped. She has a glitter-soaked mood board for every occasion…and every victim. She obsesses over her desire to be her co-worker Sarah’s bff then imagines brutally murdering her, all within the space of a millisecond, and sees no contradiction between the two. Her relentless cheerfulness and oblivious optimism in the face of her murderous impulses make her one of the funniest protagonists I’ve read in years. At times Anya’s violent streak even works as wish fulfillment for the reader — she kneecaps a bully at a sample sale, earning her awed congratulations from a fellow fashionista, and she hunts down and dismembers an Internet troll.
The “American Psycho meets The Devil Wears Prada” logline is apt, but there is one key difference between #FashionVictim and its less bloody couture counterpart: Anne Hathaway’s friends and boyfriend, not the denizens of the fashion world, are the true villains of The Devil Wears Prada. They try to badger her into giving up a job she loves because they think they’re too good to be associated with someone who works at a lowly fashion magazine. (In case you can’t tell, I’m basing this comparison solely on the film version of The Devil Wears Prada. Please don’t hate me, but I haven’t read the book.) Sarah and Anya’s boss Celia, on the other hand, are irredeemably awful people. They’re racist and abusive, and they both fat-shame Anya, who commits the cardinal sin of having a dress size above a 2. Celia harangues Anya about her diet and even forces her to endure daily weigh-ins in front of her co-workers. I have a content warning up in the Details section, but I feel the need to mention it again: I recommend caution for anyone with an eating disorder or who feels triggered in any other way by this kind of fatphobia.
The American Psycho comparisons are spot-on, though: Anya is definitely a kindred spirit to Patrick Bateman, with their shared bloodlust, obsession with status and appearance, and tenuous grasp on reality. Akhtar takes a look at that list and cheekily suggests that there isn’t much difference between Anya and the rest of the fashion world, either. The detective investigating all the corpses that keep popping up around Anya even tells her that she seems “too sane” to work in fashion, and by the end of the book, you can’t help but agree with him. #FashionVictim’s refreshing blend of camp and gore sharply satirizes the vicious world of fashion influencers, social media darlings, and the endless supply of wannabes who would kill to join them at the top. It’s a bloody, hilarious debut perfect for the Instagram age.
At Fashion Week, no one can hear you scream. I give this book 4.5 out of 5 coffins.