YA Friday: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Friday, September 16, 2011

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA, satire
Publisher: Scholastic, 2011
Source: Gift from Nana
Read for: FYA book club

The plane holding all fifty Miss Teen Dream contestants has crashed into the ocean, leaving the contestants dead or stranded. While isolated on the island, the survivors must learn their strengths in order to survive - especially when it starts to look like the island isn't so deserted after all.

I have to be up front and say that satire and I usually do not get along. Things always get taken a little too far for my taste - I guess I don't like seeing things that are important to me getting mocked, even though everything else is getting mocked along with it. However, Beauty Queens and I got along better than most satires I've experienced. Initially I didn't have a copy of this book, so I read the first fifty or so pages in a Barnes and Noble (I know, shame on me for not purchasing and supporting the book industry, but when you have two full-time students on one part-time income, food comes first). I was surprised at how much I was enjoying the book.

Beauty Queens is humorous. The girls face ridiculous dilemmas and suffer outrageous privations (no makeup!?!). The chapters are interspersed with commercials and messages from The Corporation, encouraging the use of certain products (Maxi-Pad Pets, pads that look like cute little animals) and endorsing TV shows about colonial revolutionary women romancing the British soldiers (basically sexualizing history). However, deviously hidden among slapstick and mockery are some serious gems of wisdom. I was truly moved by the girls' struggle to overcome the perfectionism that society had built into them. As Teen Dreams, they were supposed to be beautiful, intelligent, unique but not weird, talented, and poised. They were not supposed to deviate from the norm, but to live up to the ideal.
"The ideal? What ideal?" Sosie asked. "Says who? All they do is keep raising the bar, adding things we have to do or prettify or fix to be accepted. And we take the bait. We do it. That's what Miss Teen Dream represents. Well, not me. I'm out. I mean, Taylor, what are you going to do when your pageant years are over?" 
And also.
You couldn't be perfect enough to keep the world from betraying you. There was no way to win this game playing by the rules that had been set up so long ago. No. You had to rewrite them. You had to play your own game.
 I also enjoyed the characters. They were all unique and had their own issues to deal with. Some were smart, some were truly the "dumb beauty queens" they were expected to be. Some were in the pageant to prove a point, while others were there to feed their need to be perfect. All of them had something to overcome, and all of them were unique, with the exception of a couple of characters that were never given real names (which kind of bugged me).

As mentioned above, I do think some of the satiric points went a little too far. The book was occasionally crass, and while I think it's important that girls learn their bodies and intimate relationships are not evil, they should have some restraint and make conscious decisions rather than just going wild. I know the book is a satire and that everything must be taken with a grain of salt, but that was my biggest beef. However, overall I enjoyed the story much  more than I thought I would. It was cleverly written and had several strong points.

Remember, "It's always darkest before the ultimate sparkle"!

3.5 stars

Warnings: Language, far-too-detailed descriptions of kissing and some further escapades, some violence


  1. Nice review! I have this one from the library but haven't started it yet. Thanks for the heads up on the content... I'll know to skim some parts. :)

  2. Kathy - It is a pretty fun read other than the TMI about kissing and other things every so often. Hope you enjoy it!

  3. I really like Libba Bray's previous books so I was SO insanely excited for this one. And, I got my hands on a copy and... haven't read it yet :P

    But I'm glad to see that you enjoyed this one (mostly) even though satire isn't normally your thing. I'm anxious to get this one read soon! :)

  4. I think I would like the satirical aspects of this one. Don't worry about reading in B&N... eating comes first. I'm a student so I get basically all my books from the good ole library. :) Anyway, enjoyed reading your thoughts on this one. I don't think it'll be a must read for me, but maybe one I'll pick up in the future.

  5. I really want to read this, I've heard it's hysterical, and I don't mind the harshness of satire, so I think this is one for me!

  6. I've never read anything by Libba Bray, and this sounds like a great place to start. Also, I love that quote. :)

  7. Ashley - How are her other books? The only one I've heard of is Going Bovine. Are the others pretty good?

    Bailey - That's probably a good status for it. It wasn't earth-shaking but it was entertaining. I think it is a great book to read on vacation or on the beach. I am a library faithful too - I love getting books from there!

    Danielle - You'll probably have a lot of fun with this one then! There are definitely some laugh out loud moments.

    Darlyn - I haven't read anything else by Libba Bray but this one was pretty fun! Hope you like it.

  8. Going Bovine is honestly a bit of a mind trip. There's a lot of weird/crazy stuff going on, but it's pretty easy to see how/why it won it's Printz Award. It's well written and really makes you wonder. I liked it (but can see how/why it wouldn't necessarily be for everyone)

    Her other books are the Gemma Doyle trilogy- A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels and The Sweet Far Thing. IMO, the series starts out slow, but the story and the books get better as it goes. The third is my favorite overall.

    It's been a while since I read her other stuff, and I do remember that there is some content, but from what I can remember, it never gets terribly explicit and a lot is more implied than laid out. But I think she's worth reading! :)

  9. Good to know that it isn't explicit. As long as anatomy stays out of it I am usually good with it. I've heard good things about Gemma Doyle - I might have to read those some time.

  10. I definitely had some major lola with this novel, which is a rarity.

  11. @Christina - yes, this was pretty amusing!


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