Beauty Queens – Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic (US)
Release Date: 24th May 2011
Other Titles by this Author: A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, The Sweet Far Thing, Going Bovine
Survival of the fittest.
The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Beauty 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 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?
Wecome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz-Award winningauthor 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.
I’d been wanting to read Beauty Queens since I first heard of it, and I knew that I’d love it. I wasn’t prepared for just how much I did love it, though.
Libba Bray writes a fantastic message into a book that is already wonderfully funny and completely engaging. Her main issue presented in Beauty Queens is that of the treatment of girls and women in society. The way she uses satire and clued-up and sarcastic characters to put these ideas across is incredibly effective and I even became angry with some of the situations she highlighted. There was a particular quote on women apologising for having thoughts that really stuck with me:
“‘Why do girls always feel like they have to apologise for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that?’ Nicole asked. ‘You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it’s longer than three sentences or she’s expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with ‘Sorry for the rant’ or ‘That may be dumb, but that’s what I think’.”
It’s worrying accurate: I do it all the time. But I shouldn’t feel like I have to, and that’s what Libba Bray is trying to tell us. Beauty Queens also talks about notions of beauty, race, gender, disability and a woman’s right to sexuality, the latter one I hadn’t even considered before. Once again, Bray put it so beautifully that I’m not going to even attempt to recreate her words and just give you the quote:
“The Corporation would like to apologize for the proceeding pages. Of course it’s not alright for girls to behave this way. Sexuality is not meant to be this way – an honest, consensual expression in which a girl might take an active role when she feels good and ready and not a second before. No. Sexual desire is meant to sell soap. And cars. And beer. And religion.”
Bray hits the nail on the head. I loved how most of the girls came into their own – by the end of Beauty Queens they weren’t just thoughtless, pretty machines, they had thoughts and feelings and incredible talents that they’d never been able to explore before. However, some of the beauty queens did remain close-minded and unspeakably stupid and my brain nearly exploded with some of the things that were said by them.
Don't go thinking that beauty Queens is in any way a serious, ramming-a-message-down-your-throat kind of book at all. It’s not. It’s clever, unique and funny. How? Well, there are footnotes for a start. You don’t often come across them in fiction and I love it when they’re included. There was also a fact file on each girl spread through the novel so it was easier to get a grasp on each of the characters and there were scripts from adverts about the products that The Corporation was selling – genius. Then there are the mysterious (at first) chapters from a secret location about a very suspicious project and glimpses of the incredible MoMo ChaCha and General Good Times. I won’t ruin the surprise of them, but they really are brilliant.
This is one of those books that should be prescribed reading for teen and pre-teen girls. In fact, every female. Bray hammers home an important idea that is often lost in our very Americanised society. I know that I’ll be doing everything I can to get my little sister to read it in hopes that she’ll take on board some of the ideas expressed in this truly fantastic novel.
Just read it, girls. And guys. Everybody: read it.
I won this copy from Sally at Always Lost in Stories during her blogoversary contest.