Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray- Review

I've been looking forward to the release of Beauty Queens for some time.  I religiously followed every moment of writers block and frustration Libba Bray blogged about while writing, and was a consummate cheerleader of her efforts by thinking good thought her way on a regular basis.

I freely admit her unusual writing style might not be for everyone.  But it's part of what I love about her, you know picking up one of her books that it's not going to be your average YA reading experience.  Like Tamora Pierce her female characters are empowered, they're strong, their bodies are their own to discover and share and they don't need boys to complete them.  But as Going Bovine proved, her male characters are just as well written as her females.  Plus she's hysterically funny; like, she should be sponsored by Depends, funny.

I'm going to start by saying that while I actively avoid reading other reviews before mine is done, this one was taking forever, so I broke my rule and read a couple.  Amy from Amy Reads mentioned that the Book Smugglers hated it, and so I had to read their thoughts (not fully a review as one of them didn't finish it), and then it was sooooo bad I had to read a couple others to get a feel for what was being said out there.  This is the problem about not reading reviews until I've A- finished reading a book myself, and B- written my own review, it means I'm floating around in a bubble with no idea the furor certain books are causing.  And I really want to know about the furor people, cause' I don't have a book club- you guys are it.

Well first off, I was hugely relieved to see it wasn't all bad.  The Book Smugglers had me worried, I have to say.  So without further ado let me throw my thoughts into great wide interweb on Libba's latest.
 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.
Funny, wonky, and totally 100% Libba style, Beauty Queens is almost the girls version of Going Bovine.  Each girls quest for self discovery, after the enforced conformity's of the pageant circuit and away from demanding parents, handlers and the expectations of society, was an ode to the struggles of teenage girls everywhere.  And as Going Bovine proved, Libba has a lot to say about how to live life well, and as yourself.
I think Beth of Beth Fish Reads, hit it on the nail when she called the story campy.  Beauty Queens has been criticized for being didactic and for missing the mark with it's satire.  But I feel like you need to look at the story in a Rocky Horror Picture show light.  It's fun and crazy, it's rude and completely politically incorrect, it was her flipping the bird at anyone who thinks teen girls are there to wear short skirts and look nice.  Oh and reality TV, bad boys as love interests in YA, and many other juicy things.  I feel like we should all pick a character, dress up like them, listen to the audio book together, throw toast in all the right places, and leave the debate about the fine art of satire at the door.  It could even be a drinking game (dude she broke both her elbows while recording that baby, we should at least drink to that)!

One of my absolute favorite things about Beauty Queens is that the bad boy didn't wheedle his way back into any one's affections.  There's nothing more disturbing then the YA trend for the love interest to be mean, unavailable or down right scary and then turn into the love of the main characters life.  It's the mantra of most women that you should never believe you're going to "change" whoever you're in a relationship with, so why is it that women writers never seem to want to pass that gem on to the younger generations?

Anywho, next time you think "nope, not going to buy Beauty Queens, I've only heard bad things" come on back here and let me take a stab at changing your mind.  I loved it!

Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
Published by Scholastic, May 2011
Check out Libba's always funny blog
And do me a favour? Buy Beauty Queens on Amazon. You might thank me for it, if not head on over to The Book Smugglers, they feel your pain.


  1. Isn't it funny how bad reviews makes everyone nervous. I can't tell you how many times I've read a book hesitatenly because someone hated it. OR movies. People can scare me off of movies really easily, because for some reason they have a more lasting impact on me. Anyhow, I could not NOT give this book an excellent rating, because no matter how camp or, as I say "extremely exaggerated" it is, it is written beyond excellently. I think it takes a special person to sit down and write something like that...

  2. I meant to say how I can't tell you how many times I read a book hesitantly and ended up loving it....lost my train of thought.

  3. Glad to see you liked this one! I hope that I do too when I finally read it :) Happy to see that there is hope at least now.

  4. I love the first lines. They're hilarious. Beauty Queens sounds like one of those books you read in pieces and savor for its wit. Have you read Going Bovine? I've always meant to. I did love the Gemma Boyle books.

    Charmaine Smith (For the best site on - Ron Fay's Alaska Fishing Trips)