Thursday, August 11, 2011

Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray. The summary:
The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.
Everyone’s been talking about this book. Seriously, EVERYONE. And generally the responses have been really positive, but there were also quite a few who were on the fence about the book. So of course, I had to read it to see for myself. And here’s pretty much exactly how my responses went: 1) Hmm…this writing style isn’t what I expected, 2) But hey, this could be pretty funny, 3) Ug, how am I ever going to like these girls--they’re all total spazzes or totally bitter, 4) How much longer IS this book?!?, 5) Wait. I’m actually starting to like these girls, 6) Whoa. That’s totally not where I thought the plot was going, 7) This is ridiculously clever!, 8) HAHAHA, 9) These girls kick total A, 10) I don’t want this book to eeeeeennnddd!!!

So as you can see, the book grew on me. A lot. It took me until about halfway to really get into it, but once I did, I was sold. Because the girls aren’t anything like they seem at first—they turn out to be real people with actual issues, not just annoying beauty queens. And the plot—OMGsh. It just gets crazier and crazier and more and more awesome. And I really loved the commercial breaks and the footnotes. I’m not gonna lie—you know I would totally be watching half the shows they mention, like “Patriot Daughters (Tuesday, 9:00 P.M. EST), The Corporation's drama chronicling the lives of three teen girls during the Revolutionary War as they fight the British, farm the land, and take off their clothes to secure America’s freedom.” Also there are sexy British pirates in this book. So, you know, score!

But this book is more than just fun and games. It’s got some moments of really great insight. Here’s one of my favorites:
She snuggled closer and threaded her fingers through Jen’s, holding fast. There was more truth and hope in that one gesture than in all the things that had come before. These were the moments that kept you going, Jennifer thought. When you looked up to the sky and cried, “Why?” sometimes the sky shrugged. Yet other times it answered with the warm assurance of linked hands. “Sorry,” it whispered on the wind. “Sorry for all the pain and loneliness and disappointment. But there is this, too.”

It was enough.
This book is an obvious social satire, but I really appreciated that the author, while trying to get us to think about how society views women and how we view ourselves, doesn’t ever imply that being “girly” is a bad thing. It’s more like, women can kick A and do it while embracing their femininity.

The only thing that bugged me about the book was that at times it felt like the author was just working her way down a list of teen issues: Friends? Check. Relationships? Check. Sexuality? Check. Disabilities? Check. Insecurities? Check. It’s not that I minded that the books tackles all these issues, it’s that at times it just seemed so obvious what the author was doing.

But overall, a fantastically fun and outrageous book that gets you thinking about women’s role in society. And wanting to spend some time on a tropical island. And finding ways to turn your beauty products into weapons.


  1. I've heard a lot about this book as well and have always been worried about whether I'd be able to relate to it. It seems like a bit of a mix between Lord of The Flies and Lost. Your review really put it into perspective. Thanks for the insight :)

  2. The was actually a great book, but it was kind of meh! But I still liked it! Great review! :)

  3. I'm not really a beauty queen kind of person (because I find heels uncomfortable and unnecessary -- then again, maybe that's because I can never seem to walk in a straight line with them on), but it's good to hear that there are more than meets the eye with these girls! :)

    Did you say British pirates? If I didn't want to read this book before, now I am DEFINITELY picking this one up!

    Awesome review, Karen! :)

  4. Check out my blog. I nominated you for an award!


  5. I just wanted to say congrats on the award nomination. (I just came from KristenCanRead's blog and wanted to check you out)
    I'm a new follower mine is

  6. Oh, also I wanted to say that I love the name of your blog. Very creative and gives me a nice mental image

  7. It must be an awesome book if you didn't want it to end. I love discovering books like that!

    Also, I’m a new follower—wonderful blog! Stop by my blog and follow me too? :)


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