Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Genres: Young Adult, Action/Adventure, Fiction
Maturity Level: 5
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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.
I expected Beauty Queens to be hilarious (oh my gosh, it was), but I didn’t expect it to be so empowering. I expected it to challenge the reader on the way they look at beauty pageant contestants, but not the way we look at lesbians, trans-gender girls, bisexuals, or minorities. I was shocked at how this book was about finding yourself, whoever it is that yourself might be.
“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one is watching so they can be who they really are.”
I REALLY enjoyed Beauty Queens. It was laugh-out-loud funny in such an off-hand, satirical way. The girls were characitatures of the stereotypes they represented, but grow into women you can really respect. The desert island trope might be a little overused, but it felt so fresh and silly in the midst of these beauty queens, and was a perfect setting for the girls to discover that the might be putting of a bit of a facade. A lot of a facade. And as hilarious as this book was, again, I was so happily surprised by the more serious turn it took in terms of accepting others and yourself.
Libba Bray’s version of feminism is one that (I think) I can get behind. If you want to wear makeup and amazing dresses, go for it, if you don’t, don’t! If you want to have sex, that is your choice. If you don’t, that’s your choice too. But women have to stick together, and maybe the first step is just coming together and saying “Hey girl!” I love the idea of Girl Con. How has nobody created Girl Con?
The next step? Take down corporate America. (another surprise in this book!)
Unfortunately, the second half of the book really kind of lost it for me. When the pirate boys showed up it went from silly to ludicrous. The plot stopped feeling organic and started feeling … staged. And I really, REALLY hated the epilogue. I don’t know, I felt like the girls embraced feminism and then lost their individuality. Don’t get me wrong, they all go different directions in life, but the seemed so CLONISH compared to the completely unique voices they had discovered by page 200. Maybe that’s just me though.
Overall, worth the read, especially for a good laugh. I highly recommend reading the commercial segments out loud for an extra bit of family entertainment.
Side note: Did they have to get the most picture-perfect air brushed model in history for the front cover? Kind of defeats the point…