November 16, 2015

The Girlfriendless Dream-Boy Mystery

On Andreu Martín and Jaume Ribera’s El diario rojo de Flanagan (“Flanagan’s Red Notebook”)

In 1987 a new hero showed up in the world of Spanish young-adult fiction: Juan Anguera, commonly known by his nickname, Flanagan. A high-school amateur detective, his investigations usually start in his own school or in his working class neighborhood in Barcelona, and then lead the way to actual hardboiled adventures. Despite his youth, Flanagan stoically endures punches and beatings from the typical sour-faced villains, as well as he lives impossible romances in a series of hugely entertaining mystery books.

However, in 2004 Martín and Ribera got their creation embarked on a quest for something different; El diario rojo de Flanagan means quite a personal, intimate adventure for our teen sleuth. After a misunderstanding with Carlota, a young girl whose wallet Flanagan gets recovered in an attempted robbery in the subway, they both will experience a feverish infatuation (like dogs in heat, if I may say so), taking them to explore the always fascinating territory of sex.

Hope the reader is not now thinking of the novel as an erotic book—The approach by these two brainy, thoughtful teenagers will be done from the researcher’s perspective. They purchase a red notebook each[1] where they will take down anything related to the world of sexuality: statistical data (such as teen pregnancy annual rate), explanations on sexual organs functions, mixed feelings experienced by adolescents in their first sexual intercourse. . .Nonetheless, this is not all a cold chain of listed data; as I have previously noted in my canine & meteorological expression, Flanagan and Carlota live a passionate romance which will reach its highest point in their first sexual relationship. A relationship full of doubts, surprises, curiosities, insecurities, and—no wonder—some dissatisfaction.

In the meantime Flanagan is (as usual) undertaking one of his high school investigations. Classmate Jorge Castells is consumingly jealous of Jenny Gómez, who does not seem to be interested at all in him but has it bad for Guillermo Mira (a.k.a. El Mirage, a nickname given by his naughty female classmates, implying he is so tall that looking at his face is just as looking at a plane up in the sky, as well as a reference to his distant attitude towards them all; quite a snub, as we are talking about the most sought-after hot guy in the whole school). Apparently, Mira seems to want nothing but a simple friendship from Jenny. But Flanagan—at suspicious Castells’s request—tails Mira through the city of Barcelona, and finds out that he usually visits trendy restaurant owner Yolanda Cabanach’s apartment at night.

Flanagan gets shocked at first that Mirage may have an affair with a woman older than him (a funny teen remark, don’t you think?). Eventually, Mirage’s object of affection does not happen to be Mrs. Cabanach, but her son. Flanagan catches Mira hooking up with Cabanach Jr. at their surprise (not only Mira and his partner’s, but also the teen detective’s). Then Mira asks his spying classmate to keep it a secret; a promise Flanagan will certainly fulfill.

How come a 21st century European young citizen anxiously wishes to keep his sexual orientation a secret from his fellow classmates—this really is a thought-provoking question.[2]

This wonderfully written novel is not only a good, delightful reference book for all those teenagers curious about sexuality, but also a helpful tool for parents to talk openly and honestly about sex with their children. As educational as enjoyable. Flanagan hits the target once again.

[1] Carlota’s own view on this same story is told in Gemma Lienas’s novel El diario rojo de Carlota (“Carlota’s Red Notebook”). Carlota, as Flanagan, leads her own literary saga: a series of books where Carlota writes down her experience and reflections on various topics—particularly women’s— in notebooks, a different color each. Needless to say that the obvious inspiration of Lienas’s creation is Anna Wulf, the unforgettable protagonist of Nobel Prize-winning Doris Lessing’s 1962 novel The Golden Notebook.
[2] In the abovementioned Lienas’s book, Carlota also has a homosexual classmate, Gabi. As opposed to El Mirage’s case, Gabi’s male classmates make fun of him because of his mild, unmanly attitude—Let’s say Gabi’s homosexuality is an open secret—. Anyway, when he admits it to Carlota, he will ask her to keep it a secret as well.