Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (Second Review)

Note: contributor Emily Flury posted a review of this book earlier.  This review is from Adam Shields.

Beauty QueensSummary: A humorous satire about a group of teen beauty pageant contestants that crash land on a deserted island and have to figure out how to survive.

It is summer. And I am mostly in a mood for vacation reading.  Vacation reading for me is funny, usually light, reads.  I often lean toward young adult or action/romance or maybe some fantasy books during the summer.

After reading Emily’s review, I picked up Beauty Queens from the library on audiobook.  This is a book that I think needs to be listened to.  I have not seen a paper copy, but I have no idea how it would properly communicate the story the way that the audiobook does.  There are commercials, flashbacks, pageant background interviews, not the mention the actually story line.  In audio form, it works really well.

This books is satire.  A group of teen beauty pageant girls crash land on a deserted island.  All of the adults and chaperons and most of the pageant contestants die in the plane crash.  But a small group of them survive and have to figure out how to live on a deserted island.

The early part of the book started to bore me.  I thought I might have chosen a bad book.  It is filled with lots of stereotypical dumb girl jokes.  But about a third of the way in I was hooked.  The story shifted to the theme of the book, that all girls are really hiding their true selves in order to meet the demands that are placed upon them by society, family and media.

So one by one we find out what the girls are hiding.  These are not great unique secrets, the secrets could almost be considered cliche.  But they are handled well and cliches are common for a reason.  So there is the girl that is in pageants to fulfill her parent’s desires (even though she hates it), the fear of not being good enough, the pain of broken family backgrounds, repressed sexual desire (good girls don’t have any sexual desire), the smart girl cynical girl, the bi-cultural immigrant, the girl that is expected to fail, the gay girl, the disabled girl, the token black girl, etc.

The girl’s coming out and learning to accept themselves and work together and become friends is my favorite part of the book.  There is also a third part of the book about a crazy dictator, a Sarah Palin-esque corporate mogul and an arms deal.  And that works well to give the story some action and movement, but is not really the heart of the book.

I do like the satire.  One of the targets of the satire in this book is corrupt corporate culture.  Everything in the book refers to ‘the corporation’.  All the products are made by the corporation, all the ads are for the corporation, all the media is controlled by the corporation.

This book says it is targeted toward older teen girls.  But I think it is more appropriate to adults.  I enjoyed it as a nearly 40 year old married guy. I do think that the language, sex and LGTB issues mean that is not appropriate for younger teens.  But if you are not offended by some language and teens talking about (and occasionally having) sex, some fairly well written LGTB characters and a bit of well written feminist satire, then I highly recommend this book.  And get the audiobook, I am sure it is better.

Beauty Queens Purchase Links: Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audiobook

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