Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Beauty Queens


Beauty Queens is a new YA novel by celebrated author Libba Bray.

Fifty Miss Teen Dream contestants, one representing each state, were on their way to do Pageant beach promos and final rehearsals before the live show - but the airplane carrying them all to their destination ended up being a dud. So instead of frolicking on the beach in front of cameras, they're plummeting thousands of feet to crash on a desert island.

Most of the people on the plane die, but those starry-eyed beauty queens that survive are left with very little food, no shelter, and next to no water.

But what's even worse?

They are lacking in enough make-up, razors, perfume, and non-tattered clothes to look their beauty queen best!

Miss Texas takes it upon herself to keep the gals focused, and since she's convinced rescue is imminent, what is a better way to spend their time than to practice for the talent portion of the pageant and do mock interviews? But not everything is as civilized as Miss Texas would like - there are huge snakes, suspicious lights in the distance, and many closely guarded secrets among the Teen Dream girls that the wild of the island might be letting loose...

I am an absolute and utter fan of Libba Bray's A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy - haunting, beautiful, and amazingly original. I haven't yet read anything else by her - so a contemporary comedy about beauty queens who crash on a deserted island sounded pretty hilarious - which it most definitely is.

Beauty Queens has a ridiculousness that makes it fascinating and undeniably entertaining. It had some very funny, unexpected moments and a feisty, witty narration that makes this satire an outrageous and crazy fun rollercoaster ride. Plus some of the pretend commercial breaks are just flat-out awesome! Tiny hint from one of the many: All us girls know how annoying "sanitary napkin" commercials are, right? Libba Bray imagines one even worse!!!

However, once Beauty Queens reached the halfway point, the tone changed dramatically - and though keeping the veil of silly, smart cleverness the novel began to have a much more heavy-handed liberal viewpoint than I personally prefer. Maybe some of you lovely readers won't find this to be true in your own reading of Beauty Queens (which I, as always, recommend reading for yourself), but for me I was surprised by how much the book suddenly became about messages about supposedly empowering sexual awakenings and identity issues. As the novel continued, and really only increased in this direction without any subtly, I did become disappointed. Because initially it was just an insane, laugh-out-loud funny book but now it felt most definitely like a stance on controversial issues - not what I signed up for, really.

This is why, by the end of Beauty Queens, I wasn't nearly the fan I was at the beginning. Though there were still moments of hilarity and Libba Bray's talent couldn't help but sparkle, it never recovered from what I felt was a very unsavory turn. I just don't like being preached to - certainly not unexpectedly, or in a one-sided manner either.

But I know, without a doubt, that there are going to be many readers that will love Beauty Queens - and that's why I encourage you to find out for yourself. I think it might be one of those polarizing books - it's just too bad that I ended up leaning more on the negative side, rather than positive - where I much rather prefer to be!

***BIBLIOPHILE ALERT! I have been reading like an even crazier book addict than usual this year, and apparently three reviews a week can't keep up pace with me! Because of this, for the entire month of July I will be having FIVE reviews a week! That's right! Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! So, please remember to check back here more often during July - and come August I'm planning on returning to three reviews a week. Keep the schedule change in mind, and don't miss any reviews! :)

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