Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This is one of my favorite books ever. It is my feminist bible. It is hilarious. It is deep. It is girl power raised to the power of infinity.

5/5 stars

This book is on my Top Shelf.

cover beauty queens

Amazon description of Beauty Queens:

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, a desert island classic.
Survival. Of the fittest.
The fifty 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. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

I’ve read this book either three or four times (can’t remember exactly), and it keeps getting better. This probably has something to do with the fact that it does deal with some adult (ish) topics and each time I read it I’m older and more aware and more things click into place. I think it also is related to the fact that I’ve gotten a lot more invested in feminism and rape culture recently, and this book very eloquently frames these discussions in the name of female empowerment and, on a more basic level, safety.

It is easy to dismiss this book, I think. “Beauty queens on a deserted island,” wow, that’s stupid. This book is so much more than that–so much more than I can explain. Yes, a lot of the characters are airheads, and the world it takes place is a hyper-corporate and ignorant America. But it is a smokescreen of humor hiding (or as the book goes on, not really hiding at all) deep societal messages. This book is hilarious, but it also talks about the world with remarkable frankness. You know all the topics authors usually avoid (less and less now, but when I first read this book, I definitely didn’t see these topics being written about)? These are what Libba Bray focuses on. She humanizes minorities that people would otherwise write off as anonymous aggravations to society (not me, of course, but judgy people).

There is just so much to say about this book. The writing style, for one, breaks the stereotypical YA novel mold with aplomb. There are footnotes, commercial breaks, Classified chapters, and Notes From Your Sponsor. You might hear this and think “wow, try hard for uniqueness much?” However, each segment adds to the book as a whole and conveys a message. Plus, they are funny, and add to the overall tone of the book, which is undefinable but unique.

I love the characters. Each of them has something that makes them important, and not in a cheesy way. They all feel real. I want to be friends with them. Bray also manages to balance having fourteen (I think) main characters. Sure, a few of the girls play more prominent roles than others, but I would challenge anyone who has read it to say that one person was the definite protagonist. It is a book about inclusion, equality, and friendship–and this is mirrored with the importance Bray puts on each of her characters.

There is romance, and some of the scenes get kinda intense. However, Bray then uses these scenes to emphasize her messages about the double standards that face girls, especially in regards to sexuality. I would beg that you don’t avoid reading the book just because of a few sexual scenes (if that is something you worry about), because they really add to the book (unlike some YA books that just have romance for the sake of romance).

This book also wins the Best Epilogue Award from me because seriously I have started crying from just picking up the book and reading the last scene–it’s that powerful.

Okay, I’ll shut up and you guys should go read Beauty Queens!

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

  1. I have actually read this, I picked it up because I thought it was going to be light and funny, but boy was I surprised. I really enjoyed it. Much better than I could have expected. I too loved the commercial breaks. Nice review 🙂


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