Saturday, December 7, 2013

YA Fiction: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Publisher: Scholastic
Date: May 2011
Format: hardback
Source: blog giveaway
Read: cleaning up that ubiquitous TBR pile
Pages: 390
Reading time: four days

From GoodReads: The fifty 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?

My review: I've been looking forward to reading Beauty Queens since it came out, given that it appeared to be a fun novel mocking beauty pageants by placing contestants in a Lord of the Flies-esque situation and seeing what happens. And this is, in a nutshell, still a good way to describe the novel, but the book is so much more than this, so much deeper. It's feminist-y satire and cultural critique, going beyond the beauty pageant and image-obsessed culture to examine pretty much all aspects of American society, all while being uproariously hilarious. Seriously, I spent the past four nights laughing out loud and trying to convince my women's-and-gender-studies-potential-major roommate that she absolutely must read this book.

So, yes, the cultural criticism is a major - and fantastic - part of the book. I think we should read novels like this in literary and cultural theory classes because they put such critical analysis into terms normal people can actually understand (cough cough, Judith Butler, I'm pointing at you). But all of this satire is perfectly interwoven with a pretty stellar plot. The inclusion of adventure novel/film tropes to the point of near-surrealism just adds to the general hilarity. About the middle of the book, I was wondering how much longer everything was going to keep up, but this slower part was quite brief, and the momentum of the story largely kept up for the entire ~400 pages. Excuse me, but I must now go push Beauty Queens onto all of my feminist, gender theory-studying friends (and just everyone in general)...

Perhaps my favorite gem of many great lines from this book (this particular one is coming as advice to a pageant contestant): "You can tell story of how much you wish to be mother someday. People like to hear about your future plans for ovaries" (p 82).


  1. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed reading "Beauty Queens". This book is seriously too much fun and if you have an awesome sense of humor, like me (ha!), you should check out this book today. You will get to learn about fantastic products such as "Lady `Stache Off" and read great song lyrics like "I'm your emo eunuch". Seriously, does it get any better than that?

    1. Pretty much everyone I've talked to about Beauty Queens seems to share your opinion! I did end up loaning my copy to a friend, and we spent a car ride to the airport gushing about how awesome the book is.

      Thanks for stopping by!