Monday, July 9, 2012

Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens
Libba Bray
Contemporary YA/satire
Published: 2011

A plane full of beauty queens crashes on a desert island.

Yeah, it already sounds awesome. In the hands of Libba Bray, the gimmick comes to life in one of the funniest and entertaining books I've ever read. The satire is sharp and the feminist edge is fierce. This is the book I want everyone to read: my husband, my friends, bloggers, and I want librarians and teachers to recommend it to students. It's outrageously funny, and it has something to say. The authors that can accomplish this combo are too few already, and I'm glad a YA author -- and a woman -- has managed to get a spot on that list.

So, a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a desert island. What do they do? Horseshoe formation! Right away, Miss Texas organizes the survivors for a role call. All the remaining contestants, er survivors, introduce themselves pageant-style, name and state with their recited platform to follow. Right away factions divide -- searchers vs. beach dwellers, but Miss Texas is determined to keep them unified.She hosts practice sessions for when The Miss Teen Dream Pageant resumes, you know, as soon as they're rescued.

While they wait for help, the girls prove themselves resourceful; most are top acheivers in their class looking for scholarship money through the pageant, but even the more stereotypical beauty queens have something to contribute. They build huts and decorate them, they construct a water irrigation system, create fish-catching nets. They look past vanity and eat grubs for protien when they're starving. When rescue finally (sort-of) comes, they realize they've managed pretty well on their own.

Meanwhile -- and there is a lot of meanwhile in this book -- the head of the Miss Team Dream Pageant is in cahoots with a derranged dictator of a small country (think the version of Kim Jong Il from the Team America movie) and is planning a weapons deal on the very island where the queens crash-landed. The volcano on the other side of the island is hollowed out with a secret government lair within it.

Yeah, I'm for real.

Mixed in with chapters are commercials from the Miss Team Dream sponsors that will have you laughing out loud at the absurdity and the creepy relevance to things that exist in our own culture. Also, the author uses footnotes liberally to further explain the products and invented pop-culture references within the story. If you've ever read Terry Pratchett, king of hilarious footnotes, Terry: you have met your queen!

The beauty queens are a diverse cast who are self aware of their own diversity; the Indian-American wants to eliminate the African-American from the pageant since they both know only one "diverse" contestant can make the top 5. The book even pokes fun at writing conventions when toward the end, we finally learn the names of Miss Montana, Miss Ohio and another Miss who before that were relegated to only their state names. The book even ends on a freeze frame.

This book is so funny, I absolutely loved it. You will laugh, I promise, but hopefully that larger message born out of satire is what will stick.


  1. As I started reading your review, I was hoping that the book wasn't intended to be serious and high drama.

    It does sound like a lot of fun.

  2. Great review. I will add it to my TBR list! :)

  3. Great review! I've been meaning to snag this one, so now I'm off to reserve a copy from my local library! Thanks!

    Charmaine Smith (Click here to learn about - Rogue River Fishing Gold Beach Oregon)


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