Book Reviews

[review] Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

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? 

Discovery: I’ve loved Libba Bray’s books ever since the first Gemma Doyle, A Great and Terrible Beauty.

+     Humour. Everyone and their mothers will say this, but Libba is truly one of the funniest women I’ve ever encountered in literature and in real life. Her signature brand of crazed humour is the biggest stamp on this novel, keeping it from tipping into preachy territory. Miss Rhode Island’s secret is a particular favourite subplot and I love the not-so-subtle digs at popular culture. This book seems custom-made for 90s kids.

+     Characters. The Miss Teen Dream pageant is populated by colourful characters, each of whom bring a whole set of insecurities and goals to the island. Each of them are forced to face more than their fears: they also have to come to terms with what they want out of life. Miss Texas is the key example, and while I can’t talk about her too much without spoiling anyone, I will say that I’m pleased with her ending. A desert island changes people, as we all know from countless castaway books and films. Libba Bray reminds us that that change is also a choice.

–     Length. To be honest, I’m on the fence regarding the length of this book. It was longer than I expected, and keeping all the names and plot lines straight was challenging. Bray quickly switches from using the state titles to the girls’ names, sometimes in the same paragraph and it can get difficult to keep up.

–     Lack of focus. I also thought that certain subplots were unnecessary and/or not explained very well. I’m still a little confused about the Corporation’s role and the motivations of certain antagonists. The book’s focus was on the girls, but I think I needed a bit more exposition to really understand the underlying story. Going Bovine may have been stream-of-consciousness but Cameron tied the story down excellently. This book seems to flit from one theme to another without ever really settling down.

Recommendations: This is a satire of everything feminine, so take it with a grain of salt. I would recommend this to the older end of YA readers, who are better equipped to follow the references and inside jokes with which Bray fills this novel.

Rating: Good.

You can check out Libba Bray over at her website and follow her on Twitter @libbabray.

Next review: Exclusively Yours, Shannon Stacey

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3 replies »

  1. I’m such a dunce – I retweeted your book blog announcement but forgot to come check it out myself! Just saw the link on your LJ. I love the +/- strategy in your reviews – smart thinking! Very thorough review. Look forward to reading more!

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