Jeff Tells Liz What Happened In “Modelland”
You may recall that when I was recapping Top Model for you, there was a challenge based on Tyra’s new young adult novel Modelland. At the time, I expressed semi-interest in reading Modelland and telling you about it. You took me up on that offer, and purchased me a copy for my brand new Kindle. “No sweat!” I thought. “This’ll be fun!”
Liz, when I wrote the recaps for the Top Model episodes, you and your readers no doubt guessed that I knocked back a few drinks and just wrote the recap as I watched, which saved me time and effort and allowed me to uphold my absolute standards of unprofessionalism. Sadly, I could not take this approach in reviewing Modelland, since rather than being a breezy 45 minutes of stupid reality show, Modelland is an aimless novel for teens that clocks in at a staggering 563 PAGES. THAT IS SO LONG. IT IS TOO LONG. To compare, the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel A Visit from the Goon Squad is only 340 pages, and that book spanned a time period from the 70′s to the actual FUTURE. So Modelland… pretty long. Too long. Just like these opening paragraphs! Here’s what happened in it!
Modelland is set in the land of Metopia, a… future Earth? Alternate universe? It’s never made clear. In Metopia, the only famous people are the 7Sevens, supermodels (known in Metopia as intoxibellas) with actual superpowers, who advertise the fashions and products that are manufactured and purchased by all the people not lucky enough to be models. The most famous intoxibella of them all is Ci~L, but she disappeared recently under mysterious circumstances. In a John Galt-ian touch, the phrase “Where the hell is Ci~L” is spraypainted throughout Metopia.
Our heroine is Tookie De La Crème, an obvious author surrogate (much is made of her huge forehead) and self-described “Forgetta-Girl” who is constantly overlooked by her parents and classmates in favor of her dumber, more conventionally attractive sister, Myrracle. Tookie’s parents are comically awful. Her mother, Creamy, dotes on her doll collection rather than Tookie and suffers from a mysterious ailment that makes her skin old and wrinkled. Tookie’s dad is a drunken former acrobat who occasionally openly expresses doubt that Tookie is really his daughter. Fun! Fun household.
Tookie’s only friend is Lizzie, a homeless schizophrenic with a cutting problem who regularly complains of being hunted by mysterious forces that may or may not exist. Lizzie gets quite a bit of focus in the early section of the novel and shows up briefly towards the end, but here’s a fun fact; she serves absolutely no purpose. She contributes nothing to the plot, she vanishes for a great deal of the book, and her story, such as it is, receives no resolution whatsoever. Maybe in the sequel? I wouldn’t even mention her, except A) Tookie’s only friend is a HOMELESS SCHIZOPHRENIC and that is hilarious and B) there are SO MANY pages devoted to her, to no ultimate purpose. This will not be the only time the novel does this!
All the De La Crèmes, save for Tookie, are obsessed with getting Myrracle accepted at Modelland, the mysterious modeling school that produces intoxibellas. Modelland chooses its applicants on the Day of Discovery, a worldwide holiday where hundreds of thousands of girls show off their runway walks in the hopes of being scooped up by a superpowered Modelland scout. The only thing that boosts a girl’s profile on the Day of Discovery is a SMIZE a “talisman” (or as near as I can tell, a souped-up face mask) that enhances one’s natural beauty and increases the chances of being selected for Modelland by 91%. Modelland puts seven SMIZEs into the water supply (shades of Roald Dahl) and who should discover one but Tookie! Tookie hands the SMIZE over to Myrracle, supposedly ensuring Myrracle’s selection.
Suffice to say, on the Day of Discovery Tookie is selected for Modelland instead of Myrracle. It took me one sentence to give you that information, but it takes the book chapters upon chapters. An absurd amount of build-up to a blatantly obvious plot point is another Modelland staple. I hope you’re enjoying yourself, because I’ve only covered the first hundred pages!
The scout who selects Tookie turns out to be the missing Ci~L, who also recruits Dylan, a sass-talking plus-sized girl, Shiraz, an extremely short girl from a vaguely Arabian land who speaks embarrassing broken English, and Piper, a bookish albino princess. Obviously Ci~L has an agenda in recruiting such “unconventional” girls. Could it be that she intends to offer them to the student body of Modelland as a quartet of human sacrifices? Obviously not, since that theory is dumber than a pile of brooms, but damned if the girls don’t believe it for hundreds of pages.
Once we get to Modelland itself the novel becomes a neverending carnival parade of wearisome horseshit. Enormous zippers called ZipZaps are used for transportation. One of the teachers has an enormous hand for a head. The school is run by the tyrannical Belladonna, who speaks to the students exclusively through statues. Debate class is held in a floating, magnetized metal ball that pulls out girls’ fillings. In their first night at Modelland, all the girls get their periods simultaneously, only to be told that it’s the last period they will ever have. Tookie regularly happens upon Ci~L either being tortured or voluntarily flogging herself. Wayward intoxibellas are turned into cats who scratch and pee on those unfortunate enough to encounter them. Creamy and Myrracle, having gone round the bend and undertaken the suicidal endeavor of scaling the mountain to Modelland, run into a monster made of musical instruments and severed human arms. And on and on and on. Everything about Modelland is IN! YOUR! FACE! all the time. It’s just relentless, and it makes for truly arduous reading.
In the end, Tookie and the girls, after persevering through much bullying and self-doubt, eventually learn confidence and self-respect. Oh, and Tookie has a romance with a male model named Bravo that nails every teen romance cliche in the book. (Seriously, at one point Bravo tells Tookie that she was a bet.) The actual climax, such as it is, is an endless series of flashbacks about seemingly every character in the book except Tookie, our ostensible protagonist. The important part is that Ci~L is actually the Belladonna’s secret daughter, and she recruited Tookie and her friends to honor her ugly-ass childhood friends who killed themselves after failing to get into Modelland. Ci~L becomes the new Belladonna, promising Tookie that Modelland’s strict standards of beauty are a thing of the past. Then she and Tookie randomly teleport somewhere, but we’re not told where, because there has to be a real nail-biter of a cliffhanger for the inevitable sequel. Whew!
In short, if you blended Top Model, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the Harry Potter series, turned the needless adjectives up to 11 and the plot down to zero, then you’d get Modelland. Happy reading!
PS To give you an idea of how overlong this novel is, the acknowledgments at the end of Modelland run a whopping 13 pages. Check them out if you ever want to read an entire paragraph thanking the country of Greece basically just for existing.
Posted on February 16, 2012, in America's Next Top Model, Books, Other People Telling Liz Stuff, TV and tagged america's next top model, modelland, tyra banks, young adult fiction. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.