Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
May 2011, Scholastic, Inc.
Young Adult fiction
From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.
I’ll confess right off: the only reason I read this book was to poke fun at the beauty pageant set and kick off the summer with a little humor. I came away with a lot more than laughs. Beauty Queens may seem like nothing more than a beach read, but it carries strong feminist themes and a message of individualism. Warning: this book is not to be read by real-life pageant contestants unless they have a strong fondness for self-deprecating humor.
Beauty Queens was definitely funny. For the first few chapters, readers will interpret every character as your typical beauty queen, but slowly, unique personalities and motivations will unfold. Undoubtably, readers will pick a favorite– Adina, the smart and sharp-tongued Miss New Hampshire, will be the preference of bookish types such as myself– and follow her story with cheers and jeers.
Events in this story are marvelously far-fetched and personalities are gloriously overblown. In this case, this is to the advantage of the book. Beauty Queens does not purport to be a realistic fiction. I might say it is simply a humor book, or perhaps a survival story, or perhaps something else entirely. It is a satire more than anything– a satire of modern life and values, of world politics and right-wing conservatives, and of the mindset of the pageant queen.
My only criticism is the occasional incident of stiff dialogue and overdone description to the point where it “kicks the reader out” of the story. Readers may take a few paragraphs to get back into the groove of the story.
Beauty Queens is easy summer reading with meaning. I recommend it to anyone looking for their true selves.
Rating: 4 stars