Friday, September 16, 2011

Review: Beauty Queens

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Published: 2011 by Scholastic
Obtained: Library
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.

First Sentence:"This book begins with a plane crash."

First off, I gotta say, Libba Bray is one heck of a funny person. I would love to meet her. She’s completely hilarious. When I read her Great and Terrible Beauty books (Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing), I never pictured her a funny person. Honestly, it feels like Beauty Queens and the Great and Terrible Beauty series were written by completely different authors. In a way, this is awesome, because it shows how versatile she is.

To understand this book, you have to understand that The Corporation has complete control over America’s entertainment and possibly government(?)(so in a small sense, this is a bit dystopian). Beauty Queens follows the story of some pageant girls who are stranded on a island due to a plane crash. Most of the girls and all of the adults die, leaving about 15-ish girls (I kind of lost count). They have to deal with fighting jungle animals, surviving from limited resources, and getting along. Taylor, Miss Texas, is a pageant girl to the extreme and makes the girls practice their routines. Another girl who kind of becomes main character, Adina has a more practical approach to their situation. While the girls are trying to survive, we find out about some master plot with a dictator named ChaCha and the famous beauty queen Ladybird Hope. The plot of this book is simply insane. I don’t expect what I just said to make any sense.

The whole point behind this story is that “beauty” isn’t what the world sees it as. There are many lies in the world of beautiful people. You find out certain major things about some of the contestants, they all have their secrets, and the characters (and Libba Bray) are trying to tell you that people aren’t who you think they are, and the whole idea of beauty contests are shams. The girls struggle with the limits society has placed on them as girls, and they try to embrace freedom and turn very feminist. This book is basically a satire on all the pageant stuff.

I was expecting a more fluffy, funny read, and the beginning is quite hilarious. However, as soon as the stakes are higher and the plot gets even more complicated, you realize this book is dark and shocking. There’s a lot of death related in a detached way, and lots of the situations the girls get in are…strange.

Basically what I’m trying to say is that this book is not meant for the casual reader, which is what I was hoping to be. The social commentary surprised me greatly. But if you like absurdly funny, completely complicated plots, and girls experiencing complete lack of adults, then read this. This book also involves controversial topics with transgendered, lesbian, and bi contestants.

I did love the little Corporation tidbits of commercials and other televised bits that were interspersed throughout the story. Also, I loved the message that there is so much below the surface of every person. Just looking at someone can’t tell who they are. Everyone has secrets. The ending was also very appropriate and I enjoyed it.

Overall, I didn’t like this book too much. I am very thankful I did not purchase it. I stopped reading it a couple times, then would pick it up again begrudgingly (I hate leaving books unfinished). As much as I appreciated Ms. Bray’s humor in such a horrible situation, I just couldn’t get into the topics presented, and didn’t enjoy the completely INSANE plot line.

Rating: Capture878 I wouldn’t say I HATED it….but I really didn’t like it too much at all.

Content Warning: Oh goodness. Where to start? Lots of language (from mild to strong). Sex. Lots of violence. Kissing. ETC.
Most depends on how you feel about subjects like homosexuality and teenage sex.



  1. Im glad that I am not the only one that thought it was a bit... Im not sure what a good word for it is... Confusing? I will admit it was a very funny book with lots of humor, but then suddenly it would give you whiplash as it went suddenly into a serious topic. I also had trouble finishing it as I really hate to leave a book unfinished.

  2. Love that you agree! Most people seemed to love this book and it's social commentary, but I wished it had just stayed more funny, with maybe some messages about feminism.


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