Lisa Eskra's Reviews > Modelland

Modelland by Tyra Banks
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's review
Sep 03, 2011

did not like it
Read in September, 2011

Take the first Harry Potter book and mash it together with some cheesy romance and prose comparable to Stephanie Meyer. That's "Modelland." I'd expected a short book, but it's over 500 pages long, and is the first of a trilogy. I cannot get over how amateurish the cover looks. It looks worse than many self-published novels I've seen. And judging by the clunky text, I'd almost mistake it for one.

The first think I noticed about the novel were the questionable name choices for the characters. Tookie De La Creme; her sister, Myrracle De La Creme; her mother, Creamy De La Creme. Zarpessa Zarionneaux. Ci~L, along with most of the people in Modelland. Whimsical names I can handle, but these are ridiculous (eye-roll inducing, actually). Only the minor characters seem to get normal-sounding names.

The book showcases everything that's wrong with popular culture today. It's a feminist's nightmare: an entire society of shallow girls/women who aspire to nothing beyond beauty and the lure of Modelland. Where you're a Forgetta-Girl if you're perceived to be unattractive. Mothers prepare their children from before they're born for the Day of Discovery to be a famous Intoxibella, who gain superpowers through their training. And not being chosen makes the truly vain/obsessed "diseased" with an affliction worse than the Bubonic Plague. The internalized misogyny is staggering. So much for the strong girls Banks lauds in her intro. It's the wrong message to send teenage girls, to aspire to beauty before everything else (because even Tookie envies the Intoxibellas). Modelland itself is the single source of happiness for the entire world -- a sick, sad reflection of trends in society.

Stereotypes abound, as do bland one-dimensional characters. Not one character is particularly likable, most notably Tookie. The ugly duckling protagonist didn't garner any sympathy. In fact, Banks goes out of her way to make Tookie boring. Why do I want to read about a boring nobody? Oh wait, I don't. She's a clumsy, awkward, ~special snowflake~...hmm, where have I read *that* one before.

The world-building is laughable for a fantasy novel. Names for locations are as bad as the names given to characters. StripTown, SansColor, Kremlingrad, FiveHundred, Bou-Big-Tique Nation? So bad it spoofs itself. Seems like their entire world revolves around the industry of fashion, beauty, or entertainment, and I have a hard time believing that.

Finding the SM-IZEs in the water is lifted straight out of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" and turns out exactly how you'd predict. The storyline is a bastardized adaptation of Harry Potter, and it's a poor imitation in every aspect. Repulsive parents fawning over other sibling? Check. Mysterious school where ~magical~ things happen? Check. A student who inexplicably hates the protagonist? Check. A game in which the protagonist excels? Check. It's too bad none of the plot was copied over.

The book is way too long for what little actually happens. Too much emphasis is placed on what people look like and the clothes they're wearing and not enough on character development. Or plot. At times, it reads like a bad reality TV show. Tension comes out of nowhere and feels forced. The ending is fairly anticlimactic and really sort of pointless.

The novel had some good ideas and elements, all of which were poorly developed and poorly written. It could've been a powerful statement against a superficial culture, but instead it does too much to glorify it. Maybe by the end of the third book, a positive message will come out, but Banks doesn't do the job here. A weak start for the series. In the hands of a decent writer, this might have been a compelling story.
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