Tuesday, December 4, 2012

review: Beauty Queens

Title by Author: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Series (if applicable): none
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 2011
Page Count:  396
Source: purchased (with my daughter for a book club…it doesn’t count against my book ban!)
Blurb: 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 Interest in this book is: I had seen a lot of buzz about this book.  It was a definite love it or hate it relation with many bloggers, and I needed to see for myself.

My Review:
I enjoyed the irreverence of this story.  It was a good story that tells you to be who you are, not who your momma wants you to be!  It was surprising, funny, and quite cheeky (as the British like to say).  Beauty Queens is a story about a dozen or so survivors of a plane crash.  The plane was on its way to a tropical paradise, owned by The Corporation (which seems to own just about everything), to hold the Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant, brought to you by The Corporation.

Once the survivors stumble out from the wreckage and gather whatever gowns and beauty supplies they can find, these teen girls try to figure out if survival or pageant twirls should be the order of the day.  One contestant spent the whole story with a tray table stuck in her head!

There is no one central character. Each girl has her own ‘mishigas’ (Yiddish for craziness or nonsense) that she has to deal with.  It is all a bit over the top, but fun nonetheless!  You have the ‘team captain,’ Taylor, who is always trying to make sure everyone is practicing to the best of her abilities, as well as quoting Ladybird Hope any chance she gets!  You have Adina, who wants nothing more than to expose the stupidity of a beauty pageant from the inside. There is Mary Lou who believes she is cursed. Girls who are not what they seem, like Petra. We also see many of the girls coming out…of their shells; regardless of being raised on Bipolar Bears.*

*The Corporation’s cuddly combination vitamin and mood-leveling drug marketed to tween and teen girls. Bipolar Bears banish bad moods and keep you beauty-queen perfect. Sold in a variety of signature bottles. Collect them all!

Throw in an international conspiracy, a few strange plot twists, the strength of girls who have a Miss Teen Dream Can-do attitude, and hunky British boy-toy pirates, and you have a rollicking ride.

I am glad that the whole book wasn’t overly campy; and mind you, you must read this tongue-in-cheek book with laughter at the ready.  It is a bit over the top and silly, but a fun read nonetheless.  It is also an excellent commentary on our society and how we think girls should be.  We should just shut up and let the girls decide who they want to be – without having them stranded on a ‘deserted’ island!

NOTE: Even thought this is a Scholastic book (and I was a bit shocked by this), there is a lot of transgender, homosexual and heterosexual relationships in this story. Keep this in mind if you are giving it to your younger daughter.

Favorite Quotes:
“I hate this place,” Tiara whimpered. “It’s super creepy. Like a haunted Chuck E Cheese’s where the games all want to kill you and you never get your pizza.”

When the virus stole most of Sosie’s hearing, it also stole her right to complain. She figured out early that nobody liked an angry disabled person. It messed with their sympathy, with the story in their head about people overcoming adversity to be shining lights in the world. People wanted to think you were so okay with it all so they wouldn’t have to expend any energy feeling guilty.

“If you find me in that jungle dead of a rare spider bite, make sure you put my eyeliner on.”

Breast in Show. Because “You’re perfect just the way you are” is what your guidance counselor says. And she’s an alcoholic.

When I finished this book, I felt: glad I finished it.  It was a bit much at times, but if you are looking for something completely different, this is definitely the one for you!
Rating: 3 stars
Other books to read by this author or theme: I have read A Great and Terrible Beauty (which I didn’t really care for). If I wanted my daughter to read a book that says it’s okay to be who you are, I just might give this one to her!
Tag: YA, comical, social commentary
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