Monday, December 24, 2012

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens (2011) by Libba Bray is a hilarious novel about a bunch of beauty queens on their way to a pageant, whose plane crashes on a desert island.  I liked it so much that I don't really want to say that much about it.... it's a fun, feminist, romp, wherein the beauty queens transform from stereotypes of themselves to independent survivors thriving on an island against all odds.  I'll tell ya, I love nothing more than a survival story, it really captures my imagination to picture people (me?!?) getting by in the wild.  

Each surviving queen has a bit of a backstory - if I remember correctly, none of them was independently interested in becoming a beauty queen, most of them were doing it to satisfy a parent.  Not surprisingly, Bray includes a reality tv element (something tells me this woman is well schooled in ANTM and Honey Boo Boo and also I would like to meet her and become best friends) in the form of these guys who... I don't want to drop any spoilers because it really IS a fun read ... let's just say that some male characters are introduced, and the beauty queens are in danger, but one of the things I loved (tiny spoiler) is that the beauty queens never sit back and wait for a dude to get them out of a jam.

I guess this book is officially YA... I suppose it would be a fine book for YA readers, but categorizing it never entered my mind as I was reading.

Bray's cast of characters includes a couple of gay beauty queens, a beauty queen who used to be a boy, a deaf beauty queen and several beauty queens of color.  I loved that her book incorporated such a wide cast, putting all these women on equal footing and as equal contributors to the community they create on the island.  There's also a very strong anti-capitalism line, with repeated gags about commercialization and how the sale of so many products hinges on making women feel bad about their bodies or selves.
In school, they would tell you that life wouldn't come to you; you had to go out and make it your own.  But when it came to love, the message for girls seemed to be this: Don't. Don't go after what you want. Wait. Wait to be chosen, as if only in the eye of another could one truly find value. The message was confusing and infuriating. It was a shell game with no actual pea under the rapidly moving cups.
At book club, one of my friends picked up my copy of Beauty Queens, and thrust it in my face, saying, "Throw this out, immediately," (*gasp*) "and get the audio version, it's hilarious."  So, I have it on good authority that the audio copy is great, and read by Libba Bray herself.

1 comment:

Caitlin said...

I'm so glad you like this book! As I was listening to it, I kept thinking that it was like someone had hacked into your brain and written something awesome, just for you. :)