So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld
The Plot: Hunter, 17, is a professional "cool hunter." He's an observer, who looks for what the true Innovators are doing and reports back to the corporations that pay him; and then those corporations can adjust what they make, and how they advertise it. What does he observe and look for? The "next" fashion trend, the people who are making fashion rather than following, whether it's what cell phone is cool or how you tie your shoes. When Hunter's friend disappears, he finds out that things aren't always what they seem. And he discovers the coolest sneakers, ever.
The Good: This is a great mystery, set in a very real world, but for some reason reminded me of science fiction. SY pulls things apart; Hunter finds something that is important to him, almost Eden-like; he wants it back and wants to return. Also, the way that Westerfeld presents the pyramid of cool and how the advertising and fashion world work is almost like a whole different culture and world.
I also loved how Westerfeld looks at fashion, style, and trends. What is "cool"? In SY's world, people are judged by what they wear and how they wear it; and sometimes it is a natural expression of a person, for another it's unconscious, and for another it's a quite purposeful following of the current trend. Cool is about self-expression, manipulation, and being manipulated. It's about fear, identity, belonging. Being an individual and being part of something. And all that is also reflected in the mystery.
What is interesting about Hunter is that he is more aware of it than the average person; and also points out that the person who says they are aware so insists that they don't follow trends (and aren't being manipulated) are simply following another trend. Another type of judgment.
Before you say you're not in this fashion equation, take a look at the Pyramid of Cool:
Innovators: They create the style, but are so innovative that others may not think they are "cool" because they aren't following a trend. Yet somehow, these are the ones who start the trend.
Trendsetters: Basically, they see the Innovation and turn it into the new trend. These are the cool ones, so that others then jump aboard.
Early Adopters: The first group of people to follow what the Trendsetters are doing. If Trendsetters do something because they saw someone on the street; the Early Adopters do it because they saw it in a magazine.
Consumers: By the time it's taken up by the regular people, both the Trendsetters and Early Adopters are so over it. (Of course, the Innovators were barely aware of it.)
Laggards: The people who don't change their style, ever. It's not that they are style resistant; it's that they are change resistant, and if it was good enough for high school, it's good enough now, gosh darn it.
If you still think this doesn't apply to you... remember, fashion can be about things other than clothes. So you may be a Laggard about clothes, but when it comes to technology, you're an Early Adopter.
Other Links: Scott's blog; The King of Cool Codes (newspaper article); the Bookshelves of Doom interview; the Bildungsroman interview by Little Willow (interview of Scott and his wife, Justine Larbalestier.