Crystal's Reviews > Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
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's review
Sep 06, 12

bookshelves: young-adult, audio-version
Read from June 28 to September 03, 2012

Oh, gosh, what to say about this book? Part of me wants to call it brilliant, and another part thinks it's a hot mess. The most accurate description I can think of is that reading this book is like reading a movie, one of those snarky movie satires where everything is mocked. and seriously, everything is mocked in this book. No part of our overcommercialized and sexualized, racist, sexist, militarized, reality TV culture of celebrity isn't savaged. Even preachy liberal feminists are mocked. They all get it. Sometimes it's funny and brilliant, and other times you feel like the author might as well just write her message on a mallet and beat you over the head with it--it's that subtle. OK, OK, OK, I get it. You're pro feminism. Pro gay rights. Pro trans-gender rights. Anti-giant corporations and war profiteering. I've got it already. Please stop hitting me! I thought you were against violence! geez. Some of the story twists weren't so subtle either (ahem--Petra, looking at you.), or were just plain silly (mind berries? really?).
Each character fulfilled a certain stereotype checklist, with the requisite twist and/or dark secret, so it was hard to really connect to or root for any of them. I felt bad for Taylor's character--I thought she deserved a better story than how she was written, one more like the other girls. Adina was obnoxious, and a lot of the other characters were annoying too. I DID like Tiara, though. She made me laugh out loud a lot, and was really quite sweet, and a quick learner. I think she grew most, out of all the characters, in useful ways.
I do think this book would be better as a movie. it's a very visual story, with lots of clever asides, diverse and relatively interesting characters, etc. And as a movie satire, the over-the-top silliness of some parts (wild girls? pirates? high schoolers who are competetent medics and engineers? seriously?) and the oversimplification of some characters maybe wouldn't seem so jarring.
If it can't be a movie, though, I do recommend the audio book format. Read by the author herself, quite well, with an astonishingly diverse array of accents, it was a great way to immerse myself fully in the story as the author imagined it. In all its quirky glory.

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