Title: Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Publishing Info: May 24, 2011 by
Source: Audiobook borrowed from library Genres: Contemporary, Satire, Young Adult Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon
// GoodreadsDate Completed: July 17, 2013
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.
BEAUTY QUEENS is a hilarious jab at — well, I guess American society in general. Beauty pageants, yes, but also commercialism, stereotypical ideas of beauty, government, and so much more. Satirical is really the best way to describe it and there were plenty of laugh out loud moments, though at times (as satire tends to do), I felt like things went a bit over the top and I do have a tendency to reach a point where I feel like it’s overkill and then I end up rolling my eyes, and I won’t lie — BEAUTY QUEENS had several moments like that as well.
Let’s start with the characters — at first I though that Adina was our main character because the story started with her vantage point, but really the book covers the POVs of several (and I mean several) of the key beauty queens along with some members of the Corporation. At first I thought I would be confused with so many different perspectives, but the girls’ personalities really stood out on their own, especially having read this book on audio (which I’ll get into later). The girls are so much more than beauty queens and we really get to know each one of them individually. I actually came to appreciate and care about many of their stories, but there did come a point where I felt like the book should have focused on a few less to not spread the readers so thin.
I actually really enjoyed the storyline with these pampered and over-the-top girly girls having to figure out how to survive on this (seemingly) deserted island. Some flounder and some let their leadership take control and after many trials and tribulations, the girls finally figure out how to not only survive but to get along and make true friendships. There is a lot of social commentary and insinuations about how girls are expected to act and how some of those expectations are completely unrealistic and demeaning. I’m not a feminist by any stretch, but I think there’s something to be appreciated from what these girls learn — not only in the way of how they’re perceived as “respectable women” but just allowing themselves to be who they are and act how they really want. The girls just learn a lot about themselves as individuals and they really learn to be comfortable with who they are and what they really want out of life.
What I wasn’t quite a fan of in the book was basically everything to do with MoMo B. ChaCha (which I had to look up how to spell since I read the audio haha). I just found his whole character and everything to do with it entirely too ridiculous, past the point of satire and social commentary and hilarity. I was just annoyed and those parts of the audio definitely dragged because I was also tired of listening to him. Some of the ways the plot resolved were just a bit too contrived for me and things got too silly for my tastes. Things all wrapped up well in the end, but I felt like there was a lot of unnecessary moments and dialogue and backstories that really just made the book feel a bit too long. Especially listening to the audio… I was enjoying the book but it felt LONG. I was about 75% of the way through and I felt like it had just been dragging.
I think BEAUTY QUEENS is a different type of humor that I haven’t seen a lot of in YA. It was definitely enjoyable, but I think for my tastes it was maybe a bit too much to spend a whole 14 and a half hours with (400 pages if you’re reading it). I really think that’s a personal taste though, as I know many people really appreciated and loved the book! I’m interested in reading more of Libba Bray because she definitely knows how to write her stuff and I’d really be interested in reading something more serious from her.
Libba Bray narrated BEAUTY QUEENS herself and she is a damn good narrator! She had so many different voices which really was necessary considering how many characters she had to portray differently. Her different accents for all of the beauty queens were great (although Miss Nebraska sounded a little too Northern MN/WI/Canadian… does Nebraska really sound like that? I assumed they’d sound midwestern). Her non-American accents… Not as convincing to be realistic, but still better than I could do! The “commercial breaks” had music and everything so that was really entertaining! It was almost like listening to a real radio commercial so that was pretty neat. Overall, the book was just LONG on audio — I’m not sure how it comes off actually reading it — but I hadn’t listened to a long audiobook before so it just felt like it kind of dragged on!
Adina Greenburg // Character Obsessions: Journalism, getting the story, standing up for herself.
Adina always felt like the main character for me since hers was the first POV we got, but really she was one of the many main characters. I really liked her attitude because she didn’t take any crap from anyone… Mostly because she didn’t care! I think she was the easiest character for me to like because she was all sass in a group of girls that were supposed to be all manners.
Mary Lou Novak // Character Obsessions: Her inner “wild girl”, vegetarianism, Tane.
Mary Lou was another of my favorite characters. I just liked how genuine she was and her respect for each and every girl. She was one of the most guarded of of the girls and she really learned how to be comfortable with who she was by the end of the book.
MoMo B. ChaCha // Character Obsessions: Elvis, Ladybird Hope, General Goodtimes.
No. Just no. He bothered the crap out of me. Granted, I think he’s supposed to… But still. Ew.
Kept Me Hooked On: Satire. There were so many good things about the humor and the social commentary of this book! I definitely laughed out loud several times while listening to this audio!
Left Me Wanting More: Legitimacy. I get that this is a humorous book, but there were times when it just got TOO silly for me and it really took away from how much I was liking the book and the situations the characters found themselves in. This could have easily been a bit more legit and a little less “out there” and I would have appreciated it a lot more.
I went back and forth between really enjoying this book and just… liking it. In the end, I don’t think I would end up buying it to keep for my personal book collection. This would be a good one to borrow from a friend or the library to see how you feel about it and then purchase if you end up loving it!
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