Posted 20 May, 2011 | Mary @ TheBookSwarm | | 5 Comments

YA Contemporary (Satire)
400 pages
Available May 24, 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island.
Teen beauty queens. A “Lost”-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

If you liked GOING BOVINE, this book’s for you. If you like over-the-top social satire with a side helping of snark and wit, this book’s for you. If you laughed when you saw the cover (a bandolier of lipstick? Love!), this book, yep, it’s for you. Libba Bray’s newest offering, BEAUTY QUEENS, isn’t for everyone but personally, I enjoyed the heck out of it (if my snorts of laughter were any indication).

When a plane load of girls in the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant (sponsored by The Corporation) crash-land on a not-so-deserted island, the beauty queens must survive until someone comes to rescue them. Led by Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, Miss Teen Dream Texas (the state where dreams are bigger and better), the girls scavenge the wreckage of the plane for supplies and survivors. Only fourteen of the fifty states survived and, besides some very essential beauty products like teeth-bleaching trays and flatirons, a few bags of pretzels and bottles of water. What’s a girl to do? Why, practice the Miss Teen Dream dance routine, by golly! As Taylor says, they have to be ready for the judges when the rescue boats come though Adina, Miss New Hampshire and first runner up to Miss Texas, would disagree.

But the girls soon realize they need more than beauty and the perfect wave if they’re going to survive. They need food and shelter and they’ll have to use their ingenuity and hidden talents to do it. Talents which aren’t considered very lady-like or Teen Dream-y by The Corporation and, in turn, by America.

BEAUTY QUEENS is most definitely a social satire, poking fun at the ridiculousness of judging people based on looks and trying to fit them into little boxes, the over-the-top advertising and products, the political arena as a whole, the eye-popping reality TV shows, and the corporate bailouts that are so prevalent in our society today. The pageant contestants themselves are like political cartoons, their stereotypical backgrounds and not-so-natural looks blown out of proportion: the dumb one, the smart one, the lesbian, the cheerleader, the transsexual, the Indian one, the African American one, the poor one, the rebellious one…all stereotypes. 

However, on that island, away from the influence of parents, TV, advertisements, and The Corporation (which has a hand in every aspect of these girls’ lives), the girls start to break out of these stereotypes. They find themselves under all that makeup, hair care products, and brainwashing. They go feral — and it’s awesome. I wanted to stand up and cheer, especially when they go all Swiss Family Robinson and build huts, latrines, a water filtration system, and figure out how to hunt and take care of themselves and each other.

There’s a lot more to this story than a bunch of girls getting all empowered on the beach (Grrl power!). There are also hot pirate boys, dirty politicians, a secret facility hidden in the island’s volcano, man-eating snakes, exploding depilatory cream, and a stuffed lemur named General Good Times. Again, awesome.

This book is not for younger teens. There’s some strong language, sex (though it’s not very graphic), violence (if you call a girl snapping a man’s neck violent), and a variety of topics that are not appropriate for less mature teens (really). Besides that, as with most satire, it requires a more mature, more aware, and open mind to fully appreciate the humor, in my opinion. 

BEAUTY QUEENS takes all that’s wrong with the world and makes it oh, so right.

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