Xpresso Book Tours | Catwalk by Nicole Gabor | Book Review | ARC*


Nicole Gabor
Publication date: July 6th 2021
Genres: Coming of Age, Young Adult

Eighteen-year-old, shy, suburban aspiring model Cat Watson suddenly has it all as the New York fashion world’s new “It” girl and she thinks she has everything she ever dreamed of—until she realizes be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Leaving her good-girl image behind, Cat quickly learns things aren’t always what they seem on the catwalk, and she’s faced with a decision that will change her life forever.

WILMINGTON, Delaware, May 12, 2021

When 18-year-old Catherine Watson disobeys her parents and ditches her Ivy-league acceptance to start fresh as an aspiring model in New York City, a chance encounter with fashion world bigwigs gives her a world-class agent plus a boyfriend she only dreamed about. But as she navigates the fickle world of modeling, she realizes that to get ahead, she’ll have to leave herself behind—but is it worth it? Catwalk is an expertly written tale of first love, coming of age, and high-fashion, from award-winning author and editor Nicole Gabor, inspired by her own experiences as a runway model.

In her suburban hometown, Catherine had what most would consider a charmed life: a 4.0 GPA, a good-guy boyfriend who had his whole life planned out down to the two kids, two dogs, two-car garage—and it scared her to death. She wasn’t ready to follow a traditional path to a paint-by-numbers existence. She longed for adventure, for a life less…ordinary. When Catherine moves away to pursue her modeling dream in New York City and moves in with Jon-Michelle “Jonnie” who tackles the newly-named “Cat” as “her next project,” she revels in her newfound career, thinking “this is what it’s like to be young and beautiful in the greatest city in the world.”

“At that moment, it hit me. I was a mere mortal in a room full of demigods: actors, actresses, bygone legends of the stage and screen; men and women who had traipsed down red carpets all of their lives, whom the rest of the country, no, the world, had pined for, had paid to know the secrets of. Here I was standing among them, cavorting with twenty-first century royals.”

Cat meets Seth, a beautiful and kind but troubled New York scenester, the son of a ‘70s fashion model icon who fatally overdosed during her prime, and she feels strangely protective. She wants to save him like he saved her on her first night out on the town in New York City’s gritty yet swanky meatpacking district club scene.

When Cat is “discovered” by the one and only Philippe Borghetta, the hottest fashion designer in the pages of Vogue magazine, she thinks she has it all. Her life is thrust into an alternate universe, where star-studded cocktail parties, casting calls, go-sees, and nightclub openings revolve around her like constellations. She tries to play the part. Her former self, “Catherine,” was now a shadow of who she was and what she was becoming.

Cat thinks she’s finally gotten what she wanted all along—a chance to start over, a redo, a refresh. But as the lines blur between who she once was and who she wants to be, she’s reminded of her mother’s words, “Sometimes the things that are most worth fighting for are the things you already have.” Cat finds she has to make a decision that will change her life—and possibly the modeling world—forever.

Drawing on her own experiences in the fast-paced fashion model industry, former model and author of more than twenty children’s books, Nicole Gabor masterfully weaves a timeless story of self-discovery, coming of age, and the heartache of first loves. Catwalk is her debut young adult/new adult novel, available July 2021 wherever books are sold.

Goodreads / Amazon


My parents stared at me from across the kitchen table, stunned. They looked as though I’d just told them that our 12-year-old lab, Holly, had died.

I watched the wrinkles on my mother’s forehead get deeper and darker, and it seemed like she was aging right before my eyes. Was her hair turning gray? I once heard that former First Lady Barbara Bush’s hair turned gray overnight from the shock and grief of losing her baby daughter.

But I was not dead, or even dying. I was alive, and in the flesh. And I had just told my parents that I, Catherine Watson, their only daughter — the one with the 4.0 grade point average who my stay-at-home mother hoped would become a successful career woman, and my father secretly wished would follow in his footsteps as a lawyer — was not going to college after all.

I was, in fact, moving to New York City. To be a fashion model.

As I spoke, my letter of decline to the University of Pennsylvania’s College of Arts and Sciences was signed, sealed, and on its way to the admissions office. My mother cried and said that I was breaking her heart. My father yelled and said that I was ruining my life. Part of me feared they were right. To be honest, I couldn’t believe I’d actually gotten up the nerve to send that letter. I’d always listened to my parents, did the “right” thing. Never cut class. Been teacher’s pet. Made curfew. But I was sick of following the rules.

With my high school graduation just behind me, the idea of more school — only to be followed by an office job that would imprison me within four gray walls — was something that I couldn’t succumb to yet, if ever.

I was ready for adventure, for excitement, for a life less … ordinary. And I had a hunch that plenty of people stuck to the safe roads, so maybe, just maybe, I could make it on a path where everyone else wasn’t taking up so much space.

Of course, it did seem an odd choice. I’d always been so ashamed of the attributes that could, quite possibly, make me a model. Lanky and lean at 6 feet tall, I had a way of sticking out in the hallways, towering over most of the female (and many of the male) teachers. Growing up, I’d tried everything I could to blend in, to bulk up, to deny my stature: I drank milkshakes. Dressed in layers. Only wore flats. Avoided stretching in gym glass. Never stood next to the short boys in line.

But then, one day, something happened. My mother took me to Victoria’s Secret in Philadelphia to pick out my first fancy grown-up bra for my birthday. I was eying the “extreme lift” padded pushups (which I was sure would jumpstart my love life), when a woman tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted to be a model. Just like that.

“She just turned 14,” my mother said, looking a bit puzzled and slightly irritated. “I think she’s a little young, don’t you?”

“She’s perfect,” said the older woman, who was in her sixties and dressed far more fashionably than my 45-year-old mother.

She couldn’t possibly be talking about me, I thought. Is this some sort of practical joke? A sick, twisted joke? I looked around expecting to see some mean girls from school, but the place was virtually empty. I turned back around, feeling my face flush.

“You … you think I could model?” I stammered.

“I think you’re wasting your talent if you don’t,” she said. “Here’s my card. Call me when your mother changes her mind.”

But she never did. And neither did my father. Despite all my begging and pleading. My parents said that high school was more important, that getting into college was more important. That anything was more important than “aspiring toward such a frivolous pursuit.”

So I did what any girl in my situation would do. I stomped up the stairs, slammed the door, and screamed and cried into my pillow. But for the first time in my life, I felt like something special. Someone special. And my parents were not going to take that away from me.

Author Bio:

Nicole is a published author of more than 20 children's picture books and an award-winning health writer and editor. Her debut young adult/new adult fiction novel Catwalk is inspired by her experiences living and working in New York City as a model. She's also a freelance writer at Highlights for Children and a senior editor at KidsHealth.org, the web's most-visited site for children's health. She lives in Delaware with her husband, three children, and their Goldendoodle named Ginger. Learn more at www.nicolegabor.com

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My full review is coming up soon after the Book Tour! Thanks so much for stopping by. Before I begin my review, I would like to thank the author and our host Xpresso Book Tours for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 


The mother is easily my favorite character in this whole book. I really like how Gabor prefaced her as a typical 1950s stay-at-home mom, but then subverted that expectation as the novel progressed. She gets a five out of five stars from me. I also really liked the preface of the book. It's simple and clean. A girl is young and ambitious, and she slowly makes her way to the maze of her new reality that she is in. The pacing is also done well. I'm always curious what the protagonist is going to do next and I find myself really engaged whenever I read it. The chemistry and conflict between the main character and those close to her felt very authentic and real. The cover illustration is also very pretty and eye-catching. And one last thing to note is that I usually don’t like love triangles. I always feel like they flop, but I think Gabor did a great job with the main lead and her two love interests. 


I made a list of stuff that I couldn't fully agree with, in the book, so I'll be giving you a run-down of that from the list I compiled in Notion. This might also give you an explanation as to why I couldn't rate it higher than I did.  There may be spoilers ahead for you, but I'll try to keep the details as vague as possible. And if I feel like I'm not able to completely do that for you, I will leave the specific list with this symbol  as a warning for possible spoilers. 

  1. Given the timing of the publication of this book, (2021), I was expecting more inclusivity. There's a visible lack of POC models in the book. It still feels very much saturated with default whiteness. Which is odd, considering how in 2020, we had the #BLM movement started as swell as the #StopAsianHate awareness campaign. 
  2. What I also felt like was missing from the book was the right representation of LGBTQ+ community. There is this scene in Italy where there are two female matrons who are supposed to look after the girls during their stay in Milan. During their stay, it's revealed that these two matrons are lesbians after flirting with the MC at a party one night. The MC was visibly uncomfortable and the very next day she got an envelope that's an invitation to another party but in her internal dialogue, she was hoping it wasn't a love letter from one of the matrons.  As someone who writes love letters in this blog, particularly to one ex-girlfriend, I took umbrage at that. During the MC's stay in Milan, we also find out that the two matrons are involved in some sort of underground sex trafficking. Later on, in the book there wasn't anything done to remedy this image of "queer is evil" either. The author could've easily added another place where there's also another lesbian couple where the MC stays, but at a place where she felt safe and not attacked. That didn't happen. Even as the book wraps up, we still get a lingering image of all people in the LGBTQ+ are downright malicious and evil. Normally, I don't have a problem portraying gay (sorry for the umbrella term) characters as villainous --- I actually quite like that. Because they are shown in a position of power, but I also felt like the author could've easily balanced out that image with a couple of good, gay characters. A queer alliance with the reporter she met, or make the actress/model in Italy to be a bisexual or transgender character would have helped balance out the portrayal of LGBTQ+ as real people. Before we leave this topic of the LGBTQ+, I also find that if their representation isn't evil, it's the same as what I mentioned before with the POC characters: they are very much lacking. This is so hard to believe because fashion SHOULD BE saturated with creatives that are in the LGBTQ+ community. It's so baffling that there isn't much of them in this book. Literally, the fashion landscape and the practice of haute couture are built from the contribution of queer people. I think I remembered one gay model that was flirting with the cameraman or something like that in the book and that's about it. There's a very bare representation of queer folks, if at all. And not always in a positive light. 
  3. The lack of intersectional feminism is also what bothered me the most in this book. There's a scene in the book where the MC and her new model friend from New York are talking about the inner workings of the fashion world. And how corrupt it actually is, underneath its glittering, gilded facade. The MC is complaining about how models are treated so poorly as if they were prostitutes. And her new friend replies with a one-liner at the end of the chapter that should come across as brilliant, but it just sounds degrading. I know the character is only eighteen years old and she's not supposed to have the right answer to everything, and this could easily be written off as a character flaw or her just being straight up naive, but what does it say about how the author feels about the prostitutes? Aren't prostitutes just as vulnerable because of their economic standing? Statistically speaking, the majority of the time, people turn to prostitution out of desperation.  By the end of the novel, the protagonist has shifted from modeling to becoming a lawyer, to protect the models from any predators in the fashion scene. So it begs the question: Are models the only kind of people that deserve protection because they are labeled as "models" and therefore good, but if you're labeled as a "prostitute," you're bad and therefore do not deserve regulation laws in place to protect you from predatory acts? 
  4. The cover feels deceitful. If you look at it, it looks like a model that isn't a typical, tall and thin model. She has black thick hair and has arms that are more on the plump side. So, I thought that this book would be more open about different kinds of body types, but I was wrong. I have nothing against the character from feeling like an ugly duckling to a beautiful swan, but she's still a typical pale, blonde, and thin, cis-gendered protagonist. Like I said, nothing wrong with that, but it should've been on the cover because I felt lead on.
  5. Another set of characters missing: The city of New York and the dresses from the runway. I could kind of get a feel of New York when they talked about the underground bar/clubs that the models frequented, but other than that, nothing. And what I also felt like another missed opportunity was to use the MC as our eyes to see the fashion scene, behind the runway, and really drink in the atmosphere. But what we get is a blur, and while it's nice to add that sense of "urgency" during a stressful fashion show, I felt like it didn't bring the fashion scene come alive. Dresses shouldn’t have been left out because paired with the right model, it brings a creative director’s vision to life.
  6. Inconsistency with details. There's this scene, in the middle of the book, where a side character was described as "raven-haired" but then a few paragraphs down, she's described as a "brunette." The moving date to NY also feels weird. The MC left early, weeks early before her move-in date, but when she got there she suddenly had to rush about, forgetting things, when she got there way earlier than she's supposed to. So I don’t understand why that conflict was introduced out of nowhere. 
  7. ⚠ Phillip as the main antagonist put me off guard. I honestly thought he was a nice, chum. An asexual chum who only cares about his craft, his dresses, and art being enjoyed by critics and fans alike. It felt like he was a villain as an after-thought instead of being planned as a villain right from the beginning. Even when he was  taking advantage of the MC, I couldn’t believe it, because there was no foreshadowing at all that he was a bad guy all along. There was a scene where he was giving drugs to one of his friends, but that felt too much of a weak connection to make him a true villain for the protagonist. 
  8. I wish the MC supported her best friend’s dream of going to California to be a script writer there instead of persuading him to stay in New York. Because he supported her albeit reluctantly at first to go to New York to pursue her dreams, and she couldn’t do the same for him?


Just because this wasn’t a five-star read for me, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be a five-star read for you. I initially wanted to give this a three-star rating because I enjoyed the portrayal of the mom a lot, but I realized that it wouldn’t make sense to give that rating, given with the gripes I had with this book. I feel like a lot of my problems with the book could’ve been solved by the length of the book. I know it’s meant to be a short-read, but if it was just a smidge longer, it might have addressed a lot of the elements that I thought were missing from the novel. This book didn’t do it for me, but I will check out her other works. 



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  1. ooo this sounds like a really interesting read! I love that the author was a model herself too so there's a touch of realism to it xx

    mia // https://beautiful-inspiring-creative-life.com/

    1. Hi Mia! Yeah it was def an interesting read! And it is awesome that she imbued her experience as a model to ground her work in realism. Thanks for stopping by! Hope you're having the loveliest of mornings xx

  2. sounds like a nice and great book.
    Would you like to follow each other? If the answer is yes, please follow me on my blog & I'll follow you back. thank you.


    1. Hey Roseline! Thanks for the comment :) Yeah sure. I followed you, just now! x

  3. I like to read books related to fashion ❤

    1. Me too! Which books are your favorite Fashion books? x



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