Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The Details

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Published: May 24th, 2011
Genres: YA Fiction, Contemporary, Satire, LGBTQ+
My Rating: 4 Stars

9464733Goodreads Blurb

The 50 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

My Review

I have had a paperback copy of this book sitting on my bookshelf since 1945. How is that possible when the book was released in 2011? you ask. Well, time is an illusion. Anyway, I have finally moved past not wanting to read this because it was a paperback edition and got down to reading this truly delightful satire of society.

I have not read Lord of the Flies. I have heard this book is similar, but all I know about Lord of the Flies is the conch shell bit, which is mimicked in this novel.

What I loved about his book was it took something that can be seen as exploitative toward women and spun it around to be this empowering moment for all the girls who survived the crash at the start of the book. They wouldn’t have lived as long as they did if they didn’t have the skills they learned as beauty pageant contestants. As silly as parts of this book can be, I think that is something huge to take from it.

I was actually sort of surprised to see this book was published in 2011 because of how Libba Bray created the trans character in this book. Not to say it’s perfect, but 2011 was different. If you watch a 2011 episode of Law and Order Speical Victims Unit featuring a case with a trans person it is handled much different and with much different language than this book did it, and this book should (and probably has) be recognized for how it discusses this particular character’s story. I don’t want to say which character because it’s kind of a plot point in the book, which I didn’t think it would be in 2019, but again, nothing will ever be perfect. I think her story and including the life, she lived before she became the character we meet in the book is really interesting and explores the exploitive nature of entertainment from a different angle than the beauty pageant. This book is just brilliant. 

The characters of color, I think, are interestingly fleshed out and explored deeply. As we learn more about each of the girls we are able to separate different characteristics and personalities, whereas there is a time early in the book where the girls themselves put themselves in the “I’m the non-white girl in the pageant” box. I think it’s interesting that while those two girls are putting themselves in that box, we have three other fairly indistinguishable white girls from the mid-west who we learn quite late in the book are all named Catelyn. However, the two girls of color are essentially fighting for the same space in the top ten of the pageant.  Again, this book is brilliant.

This book also has more than one LGBTQ+ relationship and discusses gender fluidity in an interesting way. Again, I was taken a bit aback learning that this book was published in 2011. It wasn’t that long ago, but at the same time might as well be the stone age.

Overall, I found this book an incredible commentary on current society and how the entertainment industry and culture are intertwined. I think this is an interesting book for the world we are currently living in, especially in the United States. I don’t want to get on my soapbox too much, but I think this book has the same kind of social commentary and possible impact as, like, 1984, and this everyone should read it.

It’s funny and makes you think about society a little bit, and sometimes it is a good idea to take stock of what’s happening around you. I think this book does that.

Until next time Internet,

Deanna

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