Review: The Time-Traveling Fashionista by Bianca Turetsky

April 30, 2011

The Time-Traveling Fashionista
Author: Bianca Turetsky
Publisher: Poppy (an imprint of Little, Brown)
Pages: 262
ISBN: 9780316105422
Publication date: 5 April 2011
Review book source: I requested a copy from the publisher

Louise Lambert loves vintage clothing, even if none of her friends and family understand her passion. Since the seventh grade semiformal is just around the corner, the arrival of an invitation to the Traveling Fashionista Vintage Sale is especially exciting. But when Louise visits the strange shop run by its strange owners and tries on a gorgeous dress–who cares if it smells a little of seawater?–she suddenly finds herself thrown into the past, inhabiting the body of Miss Baxter, a famous movie star, who has embarked on a luxury cruise ship on its way to New York from England.

My thoughts
While not a technically excellent book, this story–especially with its illustrations–will appeal to middle grade readers with a love of fashion and a taste for the dramatic.

The plot and the writing of The Time-Traveling Fashionista aren’t super-strong, to be totally honest. Louise’s realization that she’s on the Titanic comes surprisingly late in the book, and her obliviousness and disinclination to ask questions once she finds herself in the past seemed difficult to believe. While her attempts to thwart history were admirable, the obstacles that are placed in her path–especially the villainous ship’s doctor–seem one-dimensional and just thrown in to create roadblocks for Louise. The actual writing itself could also have used some more editing:

“Can I watch TV?” Louise asked, eyeing the room for a television set or a flat-screen.

“What’s Tavee??” Anna repeated, confused.

“Right, never mind,” Louise said with a sigh, remembering what era she was in. (p. 92)

The dialogue also felt stilted at times, more written than spoken:

“But it was only a dress,” Louise began sobbing. “How was I supposed to know that all of this would happen? That I would end up stuck on a sinking ship! Does this concern you at all?”

“Only a dress,” Glenda mimicked, powdering her face with the poofy white powder puff. (p. 200)

The short chapters do help keep the story moving, though, which may especially encourage less-than-voracious readers.

The most disappointing part of this book for me, though, came at the end. Once she returns to the present time, Louise does research (just Internet searches, of course) to find out what happened to the people whom she met on the ship to discover their fates. Yet despite this “real world” follow-up, there’s no author’s note that explains what parts of Louise’s experiences on the Titanic were real and which were fictionalized. Especially since the romance between Miss Baxter’s maid, Anna, and a crew member didn’t actually happen, but are confirmed as “real” by Louise in the book, this lack of historical disambiguation seems disappointing and maybe a little dangerous.

But it’s not the writing or the historical accuracy that’s going to bring readers to this book: it’s the description of each character’s clothing and the twenty-two gorgeous–really, gorgeous–color sketches of different dresses and ensembles that Louise encounters in her present-day life and in her trip to the past. These really make the book stand out and bring to life the parts of the adventure that appeal to Louise herself. The cover is also really appealing and hints at the illustrations within.

In short, The Time-Traveling Fashionista is something of a fluffy addition to the recent historical-fiction-via-time-travel trend, but with a unique addition of especially lovely fashion illustrations that make the book stand out. 3/5.

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Bonus: the book has a surprisingly active Facebook page (it pulls items from Bianca Turetsky’s Twitter feed). You can also “take the fashionista quiz” on the book’s official site.

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4 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Lisa  |  May 3, 2011 at 3:05 PM

    I was kinda meh on this, too. The book, the illustrations, are gorgeous, and I will probably booktalk in front of classes because I love show-and-tell with books like this (i.e., The Graveyard Book). I can’t think why on earth they made her a seventh grader, though. (By “they” I mean the author and then her editor.) Kids are always aspirational, and I can’t imagine eighth grade girls reading this, and I’m a little dubious about the seventh graders, too.

  • 2. Gretchen  |  May 4, 2011 at 8:51 AM

    Yeah, this definitely felt really young–but it’s from Poppy and my younger teens have just eaten up the other books they’ve published, so as much as I kind of wonder if it belongs in our children’s section, it’s in my YA section. I think I might be able to sell it as a slightly fluffy summer read? I mean, the Titanic part is a little serious, but it’s never tragic or heavy. I dunno. But it’s so pretty!

  • 3. Allison  |  May 5, 2011 at 10:58 PM

    Great review! You hit upon the positives and drawbacks of this book so perfectly. I had the same reaction- fun read, not the greatest writing, but ultimately, a 12 year old who loves fashion or time travel will probably enjoy. I reviewed this one on my blog too. Loved the illustrations!

    This is the first time I’ve visited your blog- very cool! So glad I stumbled across it and will be sure to return.

  • 4. Gretchen  |  May 6, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    Thanks, Allison! I’m glad you found something here you like.

    I’ve added a link to your review in this post and subscribed to your blog. :)

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