Author: Libba Bray
Series? No, standalone
Publication Date:May 24, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: I got the audiobook of Beauty Queens through Overdrive, an online library that collects to your local libraries!
When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.
Beauty Queens is hands down the funniest and satirical book I have read this year. Beauty Queens follows survivors of a plane crash on an island in the middle of nowhere. But the catch is that all of these survivors are pageant queens, set to compete in Miss Teen Dream. All have different motives, different experiences, and different thoughts about the pageant, the world, everything.
What I expected this book to be was nothing like what it was. I was expecting a really fun and breezy book about 10 teens on an island. While Beauty Queens was fun and breezy AND about 10 teens on an island, it was also a satire. Libba Bray knows that there are stereotypes in literature and she takes them to the next level.
This book is so empowering. I would say that everyone would find something out of the book that would speak to them, no matter gender or race. A lot of real world issues are presented in this book (like casual racism, homophobia, socioeconomic status, dictators that heavily resemble Kim Jong-un, etc.) and I loved it. Libba Bray has a bitten off a lot in Beauty Queens, and she doesn't chew so gracefully. You might get offended in this book, but it will also open your eyes to issues you might now have even been aware of. For instance, Libba Bray has this one scene where two POC are drowning in quicksand. I didn't think anything of it until one of the characters said that it is a trope that "brown people die first". I identify as Caucasian, and I have never realized that nor was it brought to my attention until this book. We need to be aware of these things, and Beauty Queens really opened some doors for me.
Now let's talk about the plot. It's so silly, and purposefully lacks originality. 10 teenage girls are stranded on an island, which is secretly an island under the control of a person vying for the presidency, who is secretly working with a dictator. Every trope you can think of, this book has it, and was aware of it. However, this didn't bother me one bit. Maybe because Beauty Queens is a satire at heart, but I was completely immersed in the story.
Another thing I really liked were all the romances in the book. There are three major couples in this book, and I really enjoyed all of them. None of them were perfect or that swoon worthy, but everything was handled so well. One of the shining lights about this book is how Libba Bray deals with sexuality and hits hard that it shouldn't be taboo. I mean, yeah, I wouldn't tell everyone under the sun about my sex life, but I also shouldn't be scared to talk about it or be uneducated because no one wants to talk about it. Here are some of my favorite quotes about sexuality in Beauty Queens.
“Weren't you wearing a purity ring when we got here? Aren't you supposed to be saving yourself?" Shanti asked.
"Yeah," Mary Lou answered. "And then I thought, for what? You save leftovers. My sex is not a leftover, and it is not a Christmas present.”
“The Corporation would like to apologize for the preceding pages. Of course, it's not all right for girls to behave this way. Sexuality is not meant to be this way - an honest, consensual expression in which a girl might take an active role when she feels good and ready and not one minute before. No. Sexual desire is meant to sell soap. And cars. And beer. And religion.”
One of the last things I want to touch on before I go into my complaints about the book is the narration. If you have the means, I strongly encourage you listening to the audiobook. Libba Bray does the narration herself, and does a marvelous job at it. There were about 7 points of view, and they were all distinct. There was never a time when I got confused on who was speaking, which is quite a feat. Plus, there are footnotes and ads in the book. With the audio version, these were hilarious. I remember trying to read this book in print and having such a hard time reading the book because the footnotes would disrupt my flow. But when listening to the audiobook, the footnotes flew naturally and I loved them!“I’m a wild girl from a cursed line of women. I paw at the ground and run under the moon. I like the feel of my own body. I’m not a slut or a nympho or someone who’s just asking for it. And if I talk too loud it’s just that I’m trying to be heard.”
Okay, on to the cons! I've mentioned before, but there are a lot of characters in this book. Because of this, some fell through the cracks. There are several girls that aren't given more than a couple pages, and didn't really serve a purpose. Because of all of these characters, there were a lot of points of view. To make sure that all these POVs had their "screentime" I didn't get as much time as I would have wanted in the heads of some other characters.
I also have two little complaints. There is this one character (I forgot her name, she was barely in the book) and she has an airplane tray stuck in her head. Literally in her head, and she survives the whole ordeal! Like, how is she alive? Is her brain not damaged? Did she not get an infection? I need to know! Also, the girls don't really have a reaction to all the people who died from the plane crash. On day one they just start practicing for their pageant, and it was so weird that none of the girls had a severe reaction to seeing dead people along the beach and wreckage.
My last complaint is that the diversity felt forced. I have come to accept that this is intentional in order to shine light on how so many books are not diverse in the slightest. Still, I wish it felt a bit more natural.
Overall, I had such a fun time with Beauty Queens. It wasn't the most beautifully written book of all time, but it really packed a punch and was a great commentary on current events. I'm looking forward to reading more of Libba Bray!
With that, I give this book
4 out of 5 Stars!
Have you read Beauty Queens or anything by Libba Bray? What did you think?
Thanks for stopping by and I'll see you soon with another post!
Genni @ Ready, Set, Read!