Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Modelland by Tyra Banks

Title: Modelland
Author: Tyra Banks
Publisher: Random House/Delacorte Press
Release Date: Setember 13, 2011
Pages: 576 pages (hardback)
How I Got the Book: Amazon Vine-provided ARC

ModellandNo one gets in without being asked. And with her untamable hair, large forehead, and gawky body, Tookie De La Crème isn’t expecting an invitation. Modelland—the exclusive, mysterious place on top of the mountain—never dares to make an appearance in her dreams.

But someone has plans for Tookie. Before she can blink her mismatched eyes, Tookie finds herself in the very place every girl in the world obsesses about. And three unlikely girls have joined her.

Only seven extraordinary young women become Intoxibellas each year. Famous. Worshipped. Magical. What happens to those who don’t make it? Well, no one really speaks of that. Some things are better left unsaid.

Thrown into a world where she doesn’t seem to belong, Tookie glimpses a future that could be hers—if she survives the beastly Catwalk Corridor and terrifying Thigh-High Boot Camp. Or could it? Dark rumors like silken threads swirl around the question of why Tookie and her new friends were selected . . . and the shadows around Modelland hide sinister secrets.

Are you ready? Modelland is waiting for you...

Why I Didn't Finish This Book:

192 pages. I made it exactly one-third of the way through Modelland before I reached the point where I couldn't take it anymore and put the book down for the final time.

I knew what I was in for from the beginning. If the first thing the main character does when the novel begins is squirt whipped cream into her mouth from a can as she lays on a school hallway floor, it's not going to be a good book. The premise itself didn't give me much hope, but it would be good snarkbait, right? I might even learn a few things about what I should and should not do when writing.

Reader, all I have to show for what I managed to read is dead brain cells. Nothing good came of this book, not even a lesson in how not to write a novel.

A story with a point: Some years ago, a new building had to be built specifically to house the business my father worked for. Though numerous instances of theft delayed the project and made it take longer, what really delayed construction was the construction workers, who worked slower than a dead man walks. When all was said and done, the building was done over a year behind schedule.

The point? The book's pacing is abysmally slow, even slower than those construction workers. The inciting incident of the novel, the event that get the plot moving, does not happen until page 111. By page 192, very little else has happened. It's all descriptions of clothes and doing unimportant things and minimal worldbuilding. Might Modelland get some wiggle room due to its length? Absolutely not. I have read lengthier novels with much faster pacing. Awful, stilted writing didn't make reading the book any easier. We're not discussing the writing any further. You can't even know until you take a peek inside yourself.

But not all novels are plot-driven! Some are character-driven! Well, there is nothing about the characters in Modelland that could drive the story. Tookie is dull and so much time is spent making her an average girl, a Forgetta-Girl, that she manages to turn into a special snowflake Mary Sue. None of the side characters inspired any interest either, and I hated to see the usual mean girl love rival trope step in with Zarpessa. (Have I mentioned that while half the names in the book are normal, the other half are random arrangements of consonants and vowels? No? Now you know.) None of the women have any aspirations unrelated to being good enough to go to Modelland and this is about as far away from okay as it can get.

By the one-third point of the book, at least a few questions should be answered, but nothing was clear and there were inconsistencies. So Tookie is a Forgetta-Girl and people usually don't remember her and walk around her like she doesn't exist. What makes Lizzie and Zarpessa, for instance, see her when teachers don't? The extent and details of her "power" were never explained and nothing made me think they would be at one point. What is the point of this dystopia?

Furthermore, I can't begin to fathom how Tookie's world got to where it was. How did it become a shallow, fashion-obsessed society? Because there is no way it has always been like this. It's impossible. What is the government's roll in this, because the government is always involved in dystopian fiction? Why is there so much misogyny smeared on every possible surface? I'm sure much of this is explained later in the book (maybe not the last one), but it's the author's responsibility to make me want to read to that point, not mine. I shouldn't have to force myself through a book like I did with most of Modelland.

As I've seen someone else say, this book is a feminist's worst nightmare. Men are reduced to a woman's accessory, only for how good they look on her arm and what they can do for her when she doesn't want to do it. Objectification is wrong no matter what. Also, boys appear to be the solution to all your problems. It's said at one point that one character wouldn't be in trouble if only she'd had the right boyfriend (and this is in a situation where who they're dating has nothing to do with anything). The book tries so hard with the message of all girls being beautiful, but the bad listed above and that I can't even rein in my anger enough to list overwhelm it.

Parts of this book were just plain WTF. Not alternate-universe-or-dystopia-WTF, which my suspension of disbelief covers, but this-makes-no-sense-in-any-universe kind of WTF. I'm not sure it's safe for a man with only one eye to be driving the car and I don't think I need to restate the whipped cream scene mentioned above. A change in temperature as severe as going from sweltering hot to hair-freezing cold within mere minutes will do serious harm to the body, but Tookie is fine.

The sad thing is that Banks seems so serious about the book both in interviews and in the reader's note for the book--she puts a lot of herself into this book (the SM-IZEs and so much more) and I can practically hear her narrating it. I know that feeling of having a passion for writing because I have that same passion for it. Unfortunately, having a passion for it is not equal to having a talent for it and nothing in the 192 pages I could stomach proved to be that Banks is an adequate fiction writer. She has a lot of room for improvement.

I need to stop making my book decisions in part based on entertaining my Goodreads friends with my annoyance and flabbergastery. It never leads me to any good books.

What am I reading next?: Queen of the Dead by Stacey Kade