#20 Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This book has been reviewed and talked about everywhere and it deserves every ounce of publicity it is getting.

And how awesome is the cover?

The premise is simple: the fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant are off on an island adventure to prepare for the televised show.  Then their plane crashes and a bunch of them die, including the adults.

Lord of the Flies?  Bring it.

14 girls survive the crash, but now they need to survive the island, each other, and life without beauty products.

And everything is brilliant from the first page.

Bray has created a wonderful piece of satire.  The Corporation sponsors the book and carefully inserts product placements and ads to make sure you’re feeling good about yourself.  Well, no.  You shouldn’t feel good about yourself.  You should feel gross and terrible until you realize that The Corporation makes a product that will solve that gross and terrible thing about you.  No one likes you unless you do what the ads tell you to do.

Each of the major surviving Miss Teen Dreams characters start off as cookie cutter people.  Bray is smart and talented and did this on purpose to turn everything sideways and then backwards.  Questions about beauty immediately surface, but then she goes much deeper.

Girls are suddenly in control of their bodies, sexuality, gender identity, intelligence, relationships, useful life skills and their future.  Many of them have been doing pageants since they were babies and have been told who they are and how they’re supposed to act.  Not even how they’re supposed to act – it’s much deeper than that.  Their personalities have been decided for them and it’s never occurred to them to think about anything else.  Bray does a delightful job exploring what it means to be a girl without turning into an easy “Yay Girl Power!” fluff message.

Damn, she’s good.

The absolute best part of this book is the character based on Sarah Palin.  (Allegedly!)  I laughed out loud during her sections as she gave interviews with her version of US history.  A bit too topical to have the lasting power as the rest of the book, but worth it.

This book is incredibly smart and will work with many different readers.  I’m going to use a gender directed female audience for this part because I choose to, not because the Miss Teen Dream pageant rules say I have to.  Some girls are going to read it and like it because it’s a good book about a plane crash and there’s romance.  Some girls are totally going to get it and make plans to overthrow the government by the time they turn 17.  And everyone else will fall in between.  I’m delighted at the image of a girl reading this book and wanting to high five Bray for writing it.  It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s well written and it rocks.

Yay Girl Power!


One response to “#20 Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

  1. Pingback: pyrajane’s #18, #19, #20 | Cannonball Read III

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