Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Digital Audiobook narrated by Libba Bray
Published by Scholastic Press on May 24, 2011
Genres: Adventure, Contemporary, Feminism, Humor, Survival, Young Adult
Length: 396 pages or 14 hours, 35 minutes
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The 50 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.
This book came at me so unexpectedly, and I absolutely loved it.
Honestly, I was expecting something a lot darker after reading A Great and Terrible Beauty, but Beauty Queens is downright laugh-out-loud funny! This book is highly satirical, so I think if it doesn’t tickle your sense of humor early on, you probably won’t like it. For me, I understood where Libba Bray was going with a lot of her regional stereotypes. And honestly? This is one of the best narrated books I’ve ever listened to. Libba Bray reads this audiobook herself, and she’s got all the regional accents down pat to their tv stereotypes and it’s just a delight.
Going in, I wasn’t sure what to expect as far as characters go. I usually end up picking one character and sticking to it, but in Beauty Queens, I surprised myself by really liking every single one of the girls. I loved watching them grow, even the ones that were a bit on the outside of the main story. I thought I would like Miss New Hampshire (Adena) more – as the anti-pageant feminist power icon – but honestly? I think Tiara and Mary Jo came out as my favorites. Or maybe Petra? Honestly, there are so many good stories being told here, all about embracing femininity and honoring yourself while standing up for women’s equality… there are just so many different angles, and I delighted in it.
Also, I just feel like I should mention – for the weeks spent on the island, Miss New Mexico had half an airplane tray lodged in her forehead the entire time. I know this is actually horrible, and medically just… wow, how is she alive? But somehow, the way it was presented, this was comical genius.
As I mentioned, the story is highly satirical and this dystopian United States setting is… ridiculousness. It’s ruled by a Corporation that’s all sunshine and rainbow unicorns. It’s a pure, unapologetic capitalist society. The Corporation enforces the lines between men and women, preserving beauty and femininity as the highest level of virtue. They also spent half the book trying to sell you their super sexist products, which is both funny and perfect. They also try to sensor the book. There are all these profiles by the girls with notes from the Corporation about how they should change their answers, oh maybe also not mention that a Corporation product makes teeth grow in your intestines THANKS. Really witty, and a perfect caricatured villain.
Honestly? This book came at such a good time for me. I needed something funny and absurd, and something that made me a little angry and was pretty predictable, but still super fun. As I said at the beginning of this review, your enjoyment of this novel will depend highly on your sense of humor. I positively LOVED it and it’s one I definitely want to buy. If you like Libba Bray’s other work, I think it’s fair to say Beauty Queens is very different… but it is still EXCELLENT.
Have you read Lord of the Flies? I wasn’t assigned it in school, and I haven’t read it since, but Beauty Queens was largely inspired by it and I’m tempted to try it! What do you think? Let me know in the comments!