Friday, March 7, 2014


Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Genres: YA, Satire
Reviewed by: Angie Edwards
My rating: 4/5


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?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.


What do you get when you take the beauty away from beauty queens? Easy. Girls who learn to use their brains, and develop their talents. Girls who empower themselves and stop apologizing for wanting to be more than the next objectified reigning beauty queen. Yeah, baby! This book has it all! Bray gives readers a tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at political correctness, the stigma attached to being disabled (ahem...I mean “differently abled”), commercialism, Helen Keller, beauty pageant stereotypes, reality TV, dictators (which reminded me of the hilarious lemur in the movie, Madagascar), corporate espionage, hermaphrodites, racial equality, purity rings, etc, etc. It’s just a smorgasbord of hotbed topics every reader will be able to relate to in one way or another.

This book kept reminding me of one of the episodes on CSI: Miami, season ten. You should watch that episode. It was pretty frightening to see the outrageous things parents do to their five-year-old daughters to participate in beauty pageants. I was shocked.  Anyway, before I digress any further, I enjoyed Beauty Queens, but I was also disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more. I love satire and I caught all the between-the-lines-snark embedded in this novel, but at times it was just a little too fluffy and tedious. It actually took me awhile to finish this book because, although I appreciate the many themes that are explored, the characters were so bland and clich├ęd (most likely intentionally so), they barely held my interest. From the summary and magnificent book cover I mistakenly got the impression that Beauty Queens was going to be one incredible laugh-fest, and though I chuckled a couple of times, it wasn’t as entertaining as I hoped it would be. Only the last twenty percent or so was incredibly enjoyable once the action kicked in.

My favorite parts were the foreword (from your sponsor), commercial breaks on The Corporation Network’s TV channel during a couple of chapters, and the Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts page for each contestant. I liked how each character acted like a typical teen; behaving exactly how teenagers at that age would. I’ve genuinely never read a book with as many self-absorbed teens as these all in one storyline, but it made it easier to see them grow as individuals towards the last half of the book. Not only that, but she also pointed out how – and I’m sure this is very true for some – people don’t like an “angry disabled person”, no matter how beautiful she is, because it messes with their sympathy, and thus accentuates said disabled person’s imperfection. If you really think about it, you can’t ignore the brutal honesty behind that statement.

If you look past the satire, you’ll find that there is a message about the value society places on superficial beauty, and the pressure on young women to look the way mega corporations and labels promote as acceptable. Beauty is but skin deep, Bray tells us. It is also so much more than young women simply falling prey to a commercialized money-guzzling enterprise run behind the glitz and glamour by greedy, sadistic bastards who destroys the environment and tests products on helpless animals while lining their own pockets (my words, not hers – or is it?). Beauty should be in the eye of the beholder, darn you!

To summarize: Bray pokes fun at just about everything that have become the norm in our everyday lives; the things we don’t give much thought to as we go about our daily routines on auto-pilot. But, there are truths to all the things she spotlights, such as birth control, for one, and – while having a good chuckle – it’s hard to overlook that every serious topic tastefully disguised with humor also serves as food for thought on an awareness level. Oh, and there are pirates brandishing mad dialogue skills, and a spectacular not-to-be-missed fireball finale! So, despite my complaints, I think this is a cleverly-written novel that should be read by every teenage girl.



Libba Bray is the New York Times bestselling author of The Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing); the Michael L. Printz Award-winning Going Bovine; Beauty Queens, an L.A. Times Book Prize finalist; and The Diviners series. She is originally from Texas but makes her home in Brooklyn, NY, with her husband, son, and two sociopathic cats.

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