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Beauty Queens

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Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror!
When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

396 pages, Hardcover

First published May 24, 2011

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About the author

Libba Bray

47 books15k followers
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama…" and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.

I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I could tell you the facts–I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and six-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I'm allergic to penicillin.

But that doesn't really give you much insight into me. That doesn't tell you that I stuck a bead up my nose while watching TV when I was four and thought I'd have to go to the ER and have it cut out. Or that I once sang a punk version of "Que Sera Sera" onstage in New York City. Or that I made everyone call me "Bert" in ninth grade for no reason that I can think of. See what I mean?

God is in the details. So with that in mind, here is my bio. Sort of.


1. I lived in Texas until I was 26 years old, then I moved to New York City with $600.00 in my shoe ('cause muggers won't take it out of your shoe, y'know . . . riiiiight . . .) and a punchbowl (my grandmother's gift) under my arm. I ended up using the punchbowl box as an end table for two years.

2. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. Yes, I am one of those dreaded P.K.s–Preacher's Kids. Be afraid. Be very afraid . . .

3. The first story I ever wrote, in Mrs. McBee's 6th grade English class, was about a girl whose family is kidnapped and held hostage by a murderous lot of bank robbers who intend to kill the whole family–including the dog–until the 12-year-old heroine foils the plot and saves the day. It included colored pencil illustrations of manly-looking, bearded criminals smoking, and, oblivious to the fact that The Beatles had already sort of laid claim to the title, I called my novel, HELP. My mom still has a copy. And when I do something she doesn't like, she threatens to find it.

4. My favorite word is "redemption." I like both its meaning and the sound. My least favorite word is "maybe." "Maybe" is almost always a "no" drawn out in cruel fashion.

5. My three worst habits are overeating, self-doubt, and the frequent use of the "f" word.

6. The three things I like best about myself are my sense of humor, my ability to listen, and my imagination.

7. I have an artificial left eye. I lost my real eye in a car accident when I was eighteen. In fact, I had to have my entire face rebuilt because I smashed it up pretty good. It took six years and thirteen surgeries. However, I did have the pleasure of freezing a plastic eyeball in an ice cube, putting it in a friend's drink, ("Eyeball in your highball?") and watching him freak completely. Okay, so maybe that's not going down on my good karma record. But it sure was fun.

8. In 7th grade, my three best friends and I dressed up as KISS and walked around our neighborhood on Halloween. Man, we were such dorks.

9. I once spent New Year's Eve in a wetsuit. I'd gone to the party in a black dress that was a little too tight (too many holiday cookies) and when I went to sit down, the dress ripped up the back completely. Can we all say, mortified? The problem was, my friends were moving out of their house–everything was packed and on a truck–and there was nothing I could put on . . . but a wetsuit that they still had tacked to the wall. I spent the rest of the party maneuvering through throngs of people feeling like a giant squid.

10. I got married in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were in love but totally broke, so we eloped and got married in Italy, where he was going on a business trip. We had to pull a guy off the street to be our witness. It was incredibly romantic.

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Profile Image for Penny.
215 reviews1,359 followers
May 31, 2011
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, mix the plots from Drop Dead Gorgeous, Austin Powers, Mean Girls, Lost, and Lord of the Flies. Whip until nice and fluffy. Stir in equal parts Bollywood, Boy Bands, Pirates, An Evil Corporation, Crappy Parenting, Reality TV, Miss Teen USA pageants, and commercials aimed at teens. Next add 4 cups Teenage Sexuality (all types), 2 cups Feminism, 1/2 cup Identity Issues, 1/2 cup Self-Esteem Issues, 16-Teenage Beauty Queens (all types. Just make sure one is much more intelligent then the others), a handful of henchmen, a handful of open-minded hot guys with British accents, one hot eco-"terrorist", one crazy-go-nuts dictator, copious amounts of satire, and 1-20 oz. bag of Sarah Palin. Stir until well blended. Batter will be slightly lumpy. Pour into cupcake pans (cuz cupcakes are all the rage, yo!) Bake for: 35 minutes. Let cool.

Frosting: Mix equal parts Sunshine, Love, World Peace, Sparkle Ponies, Sequined Dresses, Cute Shoes, Makeup, GRRRRRRRRRL POWER! a handful of sand, one Lesbian makeout session, and one Sex Tape. Whip until creamy.

Frost cupcakes then sprinkle with way too many unnecessary footnotes. Top each cupcake with a maraschino cherry that has been laced with an organic hallucinogen.

Take those cupcakes and dumb them down.

Dumb them down again.

A little more...

One more time...


Okay, there you have it: the recipe for Libba Bray's Beauty Queens (in cupcake form). Enjoy!

2.5 stars. Real review to be posted after the weekend.


I spent the weekend thinking about what I would say in this review, how I would explain my beef with this book. I want to make it clear, I don't hate Beauty Queens, nor do I like it.

It was okay, overall. I mean, sure, it did have it's moments. Not that Beauty Queens caused me to laugh out loud--because it didn't, especially not after the novelty of the "helpful" footnotes and commercial parodies wore off. They were fun for the first few chapters, then they became an irritation.

Also, I don't particularly care for Libba Bray's brand of satire. At times it was so overdone it only inspired sighs of frustration, eye-rolling and thoughts of, "that would have been funny if" or "that could have been more powerful if" from me. I felt as though I was watching one of those really bad (read: not funny) movie parodies, like Dance Flick, or Epic Movie.

Yes, at times Beauty Queens is that much of a punishment, and then some.

But that's not the worst part. My major problem has to do with the fact that Bray's story had a great foundation. I mean, just read this:

“I’ve been thinking about that book about the boys who crash on an island,” Mary Lou said to Adina one afternoon as they rested on their elbows taking bites from the same papaya.

“Lord of the Flies. What about it?”

You know how you said it wasn’t a true measure of humanity because there were no girls and you wondered how it would be different if there had been girls?”


“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”

There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.

They were becoming.

They were.

Sure, it's all a little contrived, but still it's a great jumping off point. Instead of doing anything worthwhile with it, Bray took that idea and made it into a Very Special Episode of The Facts of Life, except way more condescending and a ba-zillion times more preachier--it's not like the main message Bray is pummeling her audience with is new. Girlfriend is preaching to the choir the entire time. And at no point does this book challenge one to think. Beauty Queens thinks for you, because thinking is hard, y'all.

You wanna sell me on something? Give me a chance to think for myself. Show me both sides of the argument. Present me with questions that don't necessarily have an easy answer. Let me draw my own conclusions. Don't incessantly beat me upside my head with your answers, your way of thinking. See, when that happens I tend to lose interest in what you have to say--even if I happen to agree with you--because you clearly think you're superior, that I'm not intelligent enough to come to the right (read: your) conclusion. Do. Not. Like.

And don't even think of telling me that some teenage girls need a book to do their thinking for them, that they need to be force fed the messages contained within Beauty Queens because their parents, their peers, the media has damaged them, tricked them into thinking otherwise. Even if that is the case with some teenage girls, I fail to see how shoving a message down their collective throats--be it negative or positive--is the way to go about building up self esteem, or fixing identity issues.

Moving on...

I don't fault Libba Bray for wanting to make this book funny, because Beauty Queens would have bombed royally had it taken itself too seriously. But like I said earlier, she took the satire, the tongue-in-cheekiness, way too far. Beauty Queens is obnoxious. Beauty Queens is that know-it-all girl that you sort of want to punch in the face because she isn't as clever as she thinks she is; someone ought to bring her down a few notches.

Anyway, because of Bray's lack of control every character has been reduced to a cardboard cut-out of a stereotype. Beauty Queens has two really stupid blondes from the south, a really slutty girl from the midwest, a super sexually repressed girl from the upper-midwest, two minorities, a crazy pageant-head from Texas, A stereotypical lesbian, and a girl who is hearing impaired. Even Ms New Hampshire--whom, might I add, is this story's Marysue--is feminist to a fault, goes around feeling superior to the other girls on the island because she's "enlightened" and they're just a bunch of "stupid fools".

There were a few others who had even less going for them. Ms New Mexico, for example, had a tray table embedded in her skull. That was her only defining quality throughout the entire book. I kid you not. *headdesk*

The only character that I found interesting, that had any sort of depth, was Ms Rhode Island. She's the only character I truly liked; seemed to have her crap together. She's probably the only reason anyone should read this book. Really. The rest of the ladies? Were really irritating and irrational and totally rubbed me the wrong way--go figure.

You know how every chick flick has at least one painfully ridiculous cringe-worthy scene? The sort of scene that makes you wonder how stupid Hollywood thinks women are. The sort of scene that makes you vow to never see another chick flick again, like that random musical number with synchronized dance moves in My Best Friend's Wedding. Or the 'Bend and Snap' scene from Legally Blonde. Or the entire length of the movie Mama Mia? Yeah, this book has that. It ENDS with one of those scenes.

Read this book or not. It's totally up to you. I didn't like it, clearly, but I'm not pleased with a lot of books these days.

P.S. Why is it books meant to inspire and empower women to be proud of who we are, to stop aiming for an an unattainable level of perfection in the looks/weight/personality department, always have MCs that fall in love with men who are perfect in every way? Like, especially their bodies are super beautiful, and the MC can't shut up about how physically beautiful her love interest is. How come female MCs don't fall in love with guys who have great personalities but are lacking in the looks department? Why can't it just be about a meeting of minds? Why do looks ALWAYS play a part in books written for a female audience? Especially when we go around telling ourselves that looks shouldn't matter, to anyone (especially men). Isn't that more than a little hypocritical?

Oh, yeah, I forgot. No one wants to read about ugly people falling in love. At least one of them (*cough* the guy *cough*) has to be super hot.

P.P.S. I'll have you know, starting when I was 12 years old my parents sent me to a girls camp in Colorado--five summers in a row. No electricity. No cabins. No toilets or showers or mirrors. No boys. Just a bunch of girls forced to sleep in tents with a bunch of other girls their same age. Wanna guess what THAT was like? Hell on earth. Friggin' WWIII broke out every single year! I hated it. Adolescent girls are mean. Like, ridiculously mean, especially when civilization isn't present. You think Lord of the Flies is insane? Take those boys and replace them with teen girls and you'll have a massacre on your hands. At the very least there would be a few violent cat fights. I'm just sayin'.
June 23, 2015
This book is the definition of satire and black humor. If you're easily offended, this book is not for you. It's tongue-in-cheek, it's darkly humorous, and it's absolutely fa-bu-lous *snaps finger*. It confronts the truth behind our daily lives...it deals with issues of race, sexism, and stereotypes, while managing to retain a light, sarcastic tone. The main characters in this book are all beauty pageant competitors, but rest assured, they are strong feminist types, down to the take-charge Miss Texas, who is a hell of a lot tougher than her big breasts and blonde hair would imply.
Taylor stood in a perfect three-quarters stance, arms hanging easily at her sides. “I have been class president three years in a row, homecoming queen, a National Merit Scholar, and a member of the National Honor Society, and I am a proud, card-carrying member of FAF — Femmes and Firearms. I can shoot a thirty-aught-six as well as a nine-millimeter and a Pink Lady paint gun. Last year, I took down my first buck, which I cleaned, filleted, and vacuum sealed, and with my taxidermy skills, I stuffed the head and used the antlers as a supercute jewelry tree, which I plan to market for the Armchair Shopping Network in the spring. That is American ingenuity. It’s what makes this country great, and if elected, I would be proud to serve. Thank you.”
Some brilliant genius decided to hold a pageant on a far-off island, and the 50 contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant, along with the army needed to maintain them, are being flown there. The only problem is that the plane crashes onto a deserted island and pretty much everyone dies. The surviving contestants will have to, well, survive on a delightful tropical island using their own wits, ingenuity, and pageant-approved talents. The contestants range from the confident and strong leader, Perky Miss Texas...to Adina, who had a plan before it came crashing down along with the plane.
Adina had entered … but for her own secret reasons. She would smile and pose, and when the time was right, she would show everyone what a joke this was — what a joke her mom’s life was. How stupid the girls in her high school were for believing in this beauty and happily-ever-after crap. She would use the money from the publication of her exposé to buy that drum kit herself. Maybe she’d even write a song about the whole experience. “Artificial Girl.” Or “Teen Dream Armageddon.” Yeah. Adina liked the sound of that. She would be a beauty pageant Che Guevara7.
The situations within the book are absolutely outrageous and ludicrous, and the "can-do" attitude that is pervasive throughout the book makes it seem more insane, but I loved every single moment.
Miss New Mexico stared, dumbfounded. “Stand out? Stand out! I have a freaking tray stuck in my forehead!” She broke into fresh sobs.

Taylor clapped for attention. “Miss New Mexico, let’s not get all down in the bummer basement where the creepy things live. There are people in heathen China who don’t even have airline trays. We have a lot to be grateful for.”
The girls not only have to survive, but must maintain their pageant form by constantly practicing and being in top form for the competition once they're rescued...
“Ohmigosh. No food at all.” Tiara sank down on the sand as if the full weight of their predicament had finally hit her. She blinked back tears. And then that megawatt smile that belonged on cereal boxes across the nation reappeared. “I am going to be so superskinny by pageant time!”
But cold, harsh reality soon sets in. They're probably fucked.
"I’m so hungry. Even hungrier than when my mom put me on that grapefruit and hot sauce diet before the Miss Tupelo pageant last year.”

“I’ve done that diet,” Nicole said.

Shanti nodded. “Me, too. Except without the grapefruit.”

Tiara’s eyes filled with tears. “All those years of starving myself and now I’m really starving.”

“Feels like we’ve been in training for the wrong pageant,” Nicole said with a sigh.

Their bellies ached with hunger, and the earlier thrill of losing a few pounds before pageant time had been replaced with a terrible, desperate longing for food.
I know that from the quotes, the book seems very lighthearted and silly, don't let that fool you, because this book deals with a lot of serious issues, albeit in a very offhanded manner. The issue of race is a particularly noticeable one, it's mentioned sometimes in a flippant manner.
For a second, Nicole wasn’t sure that she should go with these white girls. They sounded like they’d gone straight-up crazy, and the only other brown girl was giving her an eyeful of attitude. Nicole did what she’d been taught since she was little and her parents had moved into an all-white neighborhood: She smiled and made herself seem as friendly and nonthreatening as possible.
But that little quote right there is the harsh reality of being black or minority in America. African-Americans have to blend in. They have to appear cultured. They have to be non-threatening in order to be accepted. This book also confronts the double-standards of race.
“You don’t think the pageant’s a little racist? I mean, in the whole history of the pageant, an African-American girl has only won once — Sherry Sparks.”

In the forty-year history of the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, she was the only African-American winner — until it was revealed that Sherry had once shoplifted an eye shadow from an Easy Rx store and she was drummed out in shame. It didn’t matter that in the years since then, two white contestants had been disqualified for sexy phone photos, or that last year’s winner, Miss Florida, had been forced to apologize when it was discovered that she had gotten drunk at a frat party and a video surfaced of her sloppily twirling batons in her underwear and bra. No, it was still Sherry Sparks they talked about.
This was a hilarious, darkly humorous, witty, and altogether fantastic book.
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews293k followers
August 10, 2016

According to this book and the Teen Dream Beauty contestants, women and particularly girls tend to apologise immediately before or after voicing their opinion. For example: "I'm sorry but I just think..." or "I really don't like such-and-such, sorry but that's just my opinion". So in true girl power spirit I'm going to openly, honestly and without apology declare that I EFFIN' LOVED THIS BOOK! In every single possible way.

This is what every teenage girl should be reading. In fact, scratch that, it's what every teenager regardless of gender should be reading. This is the novel that has compiled it all, pretty much every single young adult issue has been condensed into this 380 (give or take) page book of awesomeness. I won't go shouting about it being everybody's favourite book... I'm sure that just isn't true and the mixed reviews so far have only proved my concerns about Libba Bray's humour not suiting everyone and the strange format in which the book is written also won't appeal to every single person. But, god if it isn't important!

It says everything that needs to be said. It also says what people think and don't say because they're afraid of looking bad or being laughed at or being pitied. It's not just a book about gender, feminism, slut-shaming, beauty myths, depression, family issues, homosexuality, transexuality, race, racism, disabilities and feeling inadequate. It's about all of those things combined on a desert island where a bunch of Teen Beauty contestants struggle to survive without hair straighteners, make-up and lotions.

I expected this to be another 'bitch' book. What do I mean? I mean the stories where girls turn on each other and destroy one another through carefully manipulated psychological abuse. I expected a combination of Lord of the Flies and 'Mean Girls'. This is not that book. This story is the one where girls, who in other circumstances are little more than each other's competition, come together in a time of crisis and find that just by sticking together and opening up to one another they come to understand more about themselves and how they are far more important than the labels they wear.

This is the message I've always wanted to see and I understand why some people don't think this is the reality. I've read some reviews where it seems to be the opinion that girls in these circumstances would turn on each other in true high school bitchy fashion. I disagree. Yeah, I'm going to say that (and I'm not going to say sorry either, lol). I think that, in fact, I know from experience that people act differently when in a crisis. Priorities change and you see whole new sides of people's personalities. That is what happens here. When the girls' world is turned upside down, they do what they must to survive and, through doing so, realise a great deal of important stuff too. What I love most is that while Libba Bray's message about beauty being of no real importance is obvious, she also works to show the reader how that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with a girl wanting to look nice. This is an expression of sexuality and the novel's all for that. Can a girl who wears make-up be a feminist? Of course, ridiculous question!

This is a book about survival, femininity and (kinda cheesy but I love it) being yourself. I thought it was wonderful and all the time managed to stay on the right side of that fine line between feminism and misandry. If you learn nothing else from this book, at least take away the fact that every opinion is just as important and you should never apologise for your own... on that note, I am completely, shamelessly and unapologetically in love with this book.
Profile Image for karen.
3,979 reviews170k followers
June 28, 2018

excuse me - i mean young ladies. put down that stephanie meyer book. is that cosmo girl?? yeah, lose that. stop reading the clique and get over here right now.

don't read anything else until you read this book. you can even stop reading this review, i don't care, as long as you read this book. well, the book comes out tomorrow, so you might as well finish reading this review after all.

when caris reviewed this book ages ago, i knew it was going to be a book to read. and then time passed, and its details got blurry, but i remembered i wanted to read it. and when i saw it was coming out on the 24th of may, i thought "oh, drat! i will not be able to read that because the world is ending and all" and then - and then i saw it at my library right before the world was scheduled to end and the crisis was averted.

and then the world didn't end after all, but i got the consolation prize of getting to read this book and it is so much better than being raptured.

i thought this was going to be like a beauty queen version of a battle royale fight to the death on an island. it isn't. it is something far more lasting and necessary and it makes me a little embarrassed that i ever wanted to read about hot teenage girls killing each other. mea culpa, i have been accustomed to a certain kind of literature.

but this is all about girls. girls who have been brainwashed and convinced that the only way to achieve success is to live within the shelter of a very small world like a baby veal and to maintain a very small carefully cultivated personality and to be pretty and recite what the judges wanna hear. and the girls have all bought into this line for different reasons: for money, for parental approval, to feel loved. but on the island - these things change.

and shit gets real.
as it simultaneously gets unreal with some over-the-top situations that are fun and campy and sometimes silly, but really enjoyable. she makes some really smart writerly choices that make her book both real-feeling (in parts, obvs) and emotionally complicated.

this ends up being a good companion piece to black swan

these are spoilers for black swan:

it's not a perfect book - there are plenty of interruptions that i could have done without - some of the satire is a little heavy handed, but it is such an important book i think, for any teenage girl. so many teen books are about bitchy girls backstabbing each other or girls who are in the shadow of their undeserving boyfriends or girls who have feelings that they fight against in order to fit in. this kind of does what all those books try to do all at once. she provides a spectrum of girls here, and her ambition is tremendous. and her acknowledgments pages are impressive. she set out to do something, she bothered to learn some stuff, and she wrote a great book, so much so that i picked up another of her books yesterday, and i'm going to buy this book tomorrow and return my copy to the library like a responsible citizen.

girls?? get on this.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
611 reviews87.5k followers
April 14, 2017

Reread for class 2017*

“I love you for who you are, not who the world thinks you should be.”

This book is definitely one that you're either going to love or you're going to hate. I can see why people wouldn't like it but fortunately for me, I really really enjoyed this!! It wasn't what I expected but that was definitely a good thing!
PS. I listened to this on audiobook and I definitely recommend you do the same. The audiobook is narrated by Libba Bray herself and it is just fabulous. It really makes this book 'read' as if it were a TV show.

Writing Style
So I've only read one other Libba Bray book (The Diviners) which is a paranormal historical fiction. I loved it, especially the writing of it. This book, being a satirical kind of survival story is obviously of a completely different breed. Since it was so different, I wasn't sure how Libba Bray's lyrical, eloquent writing style would translate into such a genre. I was definitely pleasantly surprised. I don't know how she did it, but she was able to use her lyrical style to her advantage and completely transform the satirical form. This story was crazy funny, it read like a TV show, but it still had that fluid aspect to it that really makes Libba Bray's writing so enjoyable.

I'm not going to go through each of the individual characters since there are so many but let me just say I loved every single one of the girls in this book. You would think with so many characters it would get confusing and difficult to distinguish between them but this was not an issue at all. Even with the audiobook, I could distinguish between each of the characters voices since they were so unique. For me, this says a lot about Libba Bray's abilities as a writer. Weaving so many distinct voices into one book really is such a difficult feat and the fact that she was able to do so really makes me appreciate her as a author.

This is kind of overlapping with plot, but I loved the fact that each character had their own issue and they all worked together to help each other overcome their issues.

I simultaneously loved and hated the plot. I didn't really like how the whole Confederation plot played out though I did really enjoy the execution of it with all the little footnote advertisements and the commercials woven in. I just felt like the whole thing was a tad too far fetched for me but for the most part I did enjoy it.

Like I mentioned briefly before, a lot of serious issues were brought into the plot of the story. They were so intricately woven in that you were really just unconsciously being taught so many important lessons and I loved that. The amount of issues Libba Bray was able to touch upon was amazing and I really applaud her ability to present these important, taboo issues in a funny, but not offensive manner.

Overall, I loved this book. It was just so quotable and funny yet it also dealt with so many important issues and for that reason I would recommend this book to everyone, especially girls. This book made Libba Bray become one of my favourite authors.
Profile Image for Emma Giordano.
317 reviews116k followers
January 21, 2019
4 Stars! I really enjoyed this book. Super funny, entertaining, and real.

CW: death/ mild violence, transphobia, racism, and sexism (all challenged in text)

I had a lot of fun with Beauty Queens! This story is very engaging and entertaining. Libba Bray is hilarious, and the many ridiculous situations these girls get into will absolutely keep you chuckling the entire time. If you disliked Lord of the Flies when you were forced to read it in high school, you may actually enjoy this story about teens who have to build a small society when stranded on an island.

Beauty Queens is a fabulous character-driven novel. We have a fairly large cast of characters that are equally well-developed and unique. Libba Bray has clearly always had a talent for characterization. I was actually surprised to see how progressive this novel was for being published in 2012 as this book features a ton of diversity in terms of race, sexuality, gender, and disability. I personally felt all of these identities were handled with care and created some very authentic portrayals. (Also it’s HELLA feminist – woohoo!) I wouldn’t say they are my favorite literary ladies of all time, but they carried the story in a positive way and I deeply enjoyed getting to know them.

Omniscient narration does not always sit well with me and I unfortunately did not love the way we were jumping into the private thoughts of multiple characters in one short scene in this book. I don’t believe that’s a fault of author’s because she is consistently an exceptional writer; It’s just a personal preference of mine.

Additionally, I was not a huge fan of the ending. I was not expecting Beauty Queens to be as so political and have a large focus on economics. I actually think it added a lot of dimension and was necessary to tell the complete story, but I was not very interested. Some of the commentary throughout the novel was engaging, but the ending became a little far-fetched and outrageous for my taste. I greatly preferred following the girls attempting to survive on the island and interacting with each other to the secondary plotline that eventually closed out the story. It did make the book more complex and well-rounded, but I think I may have enjoyed it more if there story remained focused on the girls & their survival in the end.

I’m super glad I read Beauty Queens and would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fun, humorous story that still possesses some deeper themes and great characters!
Profile Image for Madeline.
775 reviews47k followers
September 27, 2011
Before we begin, let me just say this: I feel really bad about the review I'm going to write here. Normally, I don't mind writing negative reviews - in fact, much for the same reason I always get a little thrill when someone trolls my reviews, I sort of enjoy doling out negative criticism (for the psychology behind this, please refer to Anton Ego's monologue on criticism at the end of Ratatouille) Especially when it's an author I dislike - I can and will trash Twilight until its memory is wiped from the earth, but things get complicated when it comes time to give a negative review of an author I like. Because, lest you get any other ideas, I love Libba Bray. I loved A Great and Terrible Beauty, I loved Going Bovine, and I think she personally is brilliant and funny and I would love to hang out with her and talk about books and history and James Bond all damn day.

But I try to base my reviewing style off the advice of Lester Bangs, which is that "you have to make your reputation on being honest...and unmerciful." So. Honest and unmerciful. Here we go.

So, the basic plot: a plane carrying the fifty contestants of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on an island, killing all but thirteen of the competitors. The girls have to figure out how to survive on their own and learn who they really are, while also questioning their own reasons for being in the pageant in the first place. Meanwhile, the mysterious Corporation, who controls the pageant along with everything else on TV, advertising, and possibly the whole country, is working on its own dastardly plot connected with the pageants. Also there are sexy pirates. (oh, don't worry, I'll get to them)

I don't understand why there are so few negative reviews of this book. Before I read it, all I knew about it was from the many glowing reviews praising the book's humor, its brilliant message, its terrific characters, etc. Maybe these people are seeing something I'm not. Maybe I'm a moron. But for whatever reason, here are the big problems I found with this book, boiled down to some key points:

-Regularly Spits In the Face of Logic. Not real-world logic, which is fine to disregard, but the logic that the world of the story has already established. There's a part where two of the characters are talking about money they spend on pageants, and one girl is shocked when the other tells her how much the average pageant gown costs. Hang on - you're in a pageant as the story takes place, and you don't know how much pageant gowns cost? Buh?

Similarly, there are just too many coincidences to put up with. First a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island, conveniently killing off any adults or authority figures. But surprise! the island is also inhabited by a Corporation stronghold. And meanwhile, a sexy eco warrior is camped out on the island (I am not making any of that up). And then a boat carrying the sexy young cast of a pirate TV show crashes on the island, with at least one hot boy who is perfect for each of our main characters. Up until the very last page, I was waiting for Bray to reveal that the entire thing - the crash, the pirates, the comically-evil corporate villains - had all been staged from the beginning as the pilot for some awesome new reality TV show. But no. There was no staging. It all actually happened, and I don't understand how or why.

-It's Super Easy to Be in a Pageant, Apparently. Adina, our sort-of protagonist, is an aspiring journalist who's only in the pageant so she can write a tell-all article about it. Fine, but this is a national pageant. How in the hell did she fake her way to getting the Miss New Hampshire crown, beating out hundreds of other girls who have been doing this for real since they were children? For god's sake, at least Gracie Hart had the FBI rigging the competition so she could get to the Top Ten. And Adina's not even the only one - another character does the pageant to make a social statement, and another one does it because she's won everything else already. Jesus, from the way this book makes pageants sound, anybody can win a trophy with no experience or genuine effort!

-It's All So Very, Very Satirical. This book is a satire, I get that. But the satire is all so broad, so winkingly obvious, that after the second "commercial break" I was tired of it. Bray goes for the obvious jokes and stereotypes (a religious, gun-loving Texan character? How innovative!) without delving deeper into who these girls are and why they do pageants (short answer, according to this book: either to make a social statement, or childhood trauma). All the satire is so heavy-handed that it practically bruises, and the story gets too bogged down in its own jokes. The book seems to be begging us to applaud its cleverness as it hits us with a barrage of made-up pop culture references and fake TV show titles and jokes that have no business being there at all, except to get another laugh out of us (the funniest line in the book, in fact, makes no sense in the context it's delivered and is completely unnecessary)

-The Protagonist is the Wrong Girl. The character of Taylor starts out as the villain - a serious, religious pageant veteran who has total faith in the Miss Teen Dream philosophy and message. She seems like the bad guy, but when she finds out that the rescue has been called off and the girls have been abandoned, she snaps. We learn about her traumatic childhood, her need to be perfect and accepted and loved, and then Taylor goes full Rambo and starts living by herself in the jungle, taking out the bad guys one by one like a crazy ninja armed with hairspray. This story is awesome, but it has to take a backseat to all the other girls and the stupid, stupid pirate romance bullshit that really should have been left out completely.

-Femin...ish? I have a bad habit of analyzing things from a feminist viewpoint (I went to a women's college, it's part of my programming) when they don't deserve to be analyzed that way. But Beauty Queens is set up as a modern feminist manifesto, railing against the pageant system and our standards of beauty and who girls are expected to be in today's world...and it only works a little bit. Like the satirical elements, all the feminist messages are slammed in our faces with no subtly. Adina, our Token Empowered Girl, speaks in cliched feminist slogans like "I don't need a man to define me" and the characters all have very obvious conversations about how much society sucks if you're a girl. Heavy-handed doesn't begin to describe it.

And at the same time, there's an odd insistence on the importance of the girls' love lives. First there's the girl who sexes up the eco warrior, which I guess is fine because the chapter was really about her reclaiming her sexuality and not being afraid of her own desires, but then the hot pirates show up and it all goes to hell as various girls lose their damn minds over the sexy, sexy boys - even our Feminist Icon, Adina, is powerless when faced with sensitive bad boys who share some of her interests.

I could put up with all of that, if there was a legitimate reason for the pirates to be in the book. But I've thought about it, and I honestly cannot come up with a single compelling reason that they should have been included at all. They have almost no effect on the overall plot, and anything they do manage to accomplish could have easily been done by other characters. They served no purpose, and I wish they'd been cut out of the story entirely.

-What's the Message, Again? It feels like Bray is trying to write two different books here. On the one hand, we have a campy, outrageous pageant caper with maniacal villains, outrageous escapes, and general balls-out hilarity; and then we have a serious social statement about girls today and who society wants them to be. There are some very good ideas in this book - it's inspired, in part, by Lord of the Flies and discusses (when it's not throwing out pop culture jokes and romance subplots) the idea that girls need an island of their own, where they don't have to worry about being who everyone else wants them to be and discover who they really are. But it doesn't mesh with the silly, campy mood that defines the rest of the book. How can we take these girls' opinions about societal pressures seriously when the villains have a secret lair in a volcano with a self-destruct system that can be overridden by making a Powerpoint presentation (again, not making this up). To use a tired expression, Bray is trying to have her cake and eat it too, and the result is a jumbled mess of a book that can’t decide where it’s going or what it wants to be. (sort of like the girls in the story – hey, maybe the whole format is an allegory! Well, you think of a better explanation)
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Nat.
553 reviews3,177 followers
June 5, 2020
I wanted to pick this book up because it reminded me of:

This review contains *spoilers*.

And also because Lair of Dreams left me in a bit of a reading slump, and what better way to get out of one than by reading another book by the same author, am I right?

“Our tale begins with a sudden fall from blue skies, with screams and prayers and a camera crew bravely recording every bit of the turbulence and drama.”

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

We get to know each of the thirteen through the 'Fun Facts About Me' page, which I thoroughly enjoyed and decided to include some of my favorite facts:

• Adina Greenberg's fun fact:
"My platform is Identifying Misogyny in American Culture. It’s all about helping girls ID the objectification of women when they see it. You know, like when girls are asked to parade around in bathing suits and heels and get scored on that.”

• Jennifer Huberman's fun fact:
“My personal motto is: WWWWD?: What Would Wonder Woman Do?”

• Petra West's fun fact:
“The thing that scares me most is not being myself.”

• Sosie Simmons' fun fact:
“I am hearing impaired but that doesn’t stop me! I hear with my heart. Well, not really. Because, as anybody who is not a complete and total moron knows, the heart does not have ears. This is the kind of s**t they make disabled people say all the time so everybody’s all “okay” with us. Soooo annoying.”

• Mary Lou Novak's fun fact:
“The most important quality in a friend is to be yourself. Unless you’re not a very nice person. Then you should try to be somebody else.”

• Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins's fun fact:
“Personal motto: “God made me beautiful. The least I can do is share it with the world.”

And speaking of favorites of mine, I found Petra to be one of the most compelling characters within this storyline. I completely fell in love with her when we were told the tale her mother used to tell her as a bedtime story.
The story was about a frog cheerfully insisting to all in the meadow that it was a princess-in-waiting.

“Before sleep each night, the frog prayed to the four winds, to the great fish, to the sun above, and to the goddess moon that when it woke, it would be a princess. Yet each morning, the frog opened its eyes to find it was still only a frog. How could nature be so wrong about something so important?”

“The Wise Witch was very grateful to the little frog. She kept her promise. “What is your heart’s desire?” she asked.
But the frog had almost given up on its wish. It didn’t know if such a wish were possible. “Well,” it said softly, afraid, “I have always wanted to be a princess. But I have seen myself in the river. And it has shown me that I am a frog.”
The witch smiled. “The river does not know everything. Look again.”

It's one of the most beautiful stories that I've read.

Also, the parts where the girls just talked with one another about what they missed and didn’t miss, crumbled my heart.

“Miss Montana stared into the fire. “Sometimes I just want to go in a room and break things and scream. Like, it’s so much pressure all the time and if you get upset or angry, people say, ‘Are you on the rag or something?’ And it’s like I want to say, ‘No. I’m just pissed off right now. Can’t I just be pissed off? How come that’s not okay for me?’ Like my dad will say, ‘I can’t talk to you when you’re hysterical.’ And I’m totally not being hysterical! I’m just mad. And he’s the one losing it. But then I feel embarrassed anyway. So I slap on that smile and pretend everything’s okay even though it’s not. Anyway.” Miss Montana pasted on an embarrassed half smile. “Sorry for the rant.”
“Why do you have to be sorry?” Nicole asked.
“Well … I don’t know.”
“Why do girls always feel like they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that?” Nicole asked. “You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it’s longer than three sentences or she’s expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with, ‘Sorry for the rant’ or ‘That may be dumb, but that’s what I think.’”

This book educated me a lot without ever feeling preachy, which I really admire.

And while respectively handling serious subjects, Beauty Queens also has a wicked sense of humor that was right up my alley.

“I’ll do it,” Miss Arkansas volunteered.
“No. This is about Miss New Hampshire. We are the Miss Teen Dream team. We are only as strong as our weakest link. There is no I in “team.”
“There’s no U in asshole, either, and yet …” Adina muttered.”

Adina wasn't my absolute favorite because her humor could be a little overstepping. And like Petra said, just because you’re funny doesn’t mean you get to be cruel. But sometimes Adina uttered some of the funniest things that had me laughing out loud.


Weeks go by, when suddenly the girls rescue (?) the cast of Captains Bodacious IV that arrive during a storm, which I thought would make the story lose its steam a little. But never doubt Libba Bray, because she managed to keep me entertained till the end.

“Say, could one of you lovelies get me something to quench my thirst?”
Four girls turned to go and Adina said, “You seem able-bodied to me.”
Captain Sinjin put a hand to his chest. “We’ve been through a shipwreck, luv. We’re exhausted and need to lie about.”
“Oh, I know how you feel,” Tiara said. “When our plane crashed here, and we had to bury the dead and deal with really bad wounds and Miss New Mexico got that tray stuck in her head —”
“Hi!” Miss New Mexico waved.
“— and the chaperones were all charred in the wreckage and it was really gross and scary and there was nothing to eat and no shelter and we had to build all that stuff and deal with giant snakes and bug bites and we barely survived a giant wave and mudslides and hallucinogenic plants and stuff, we were so, so tired.”

But I did low-key despise the cast of pirates (at first). We were having so much fun getting to know each girl and hearing their stories, and then these reality TV boys arrive...


I kept thinking, "girls please stay strong and don't fall for those idiots... I'm begging you."

But I found it laughable when Adina was all:

“Good God! All you had to do was introduce the scent of testosterone and perfectly capable, together girls were reduced to giggling, lash-batting, hair-playing idiots. She hated it when girls did this. When they got all goo-goo-eyed over Y chromosome–carrying creatures instead of taking care of themselves. It’s what her mother had done her whole life, cater to some man instead of looking after herself. Or Adina.”

Until a boy bumps into her, in which case she turned all:

“Let me help you with that.”
“I don’t need your help,” Adina called, but Duff was already wading into the water. This was the problem with men. They just assumed. They just took action. It was infuriating. And reductive. And slightly thrilling.
The wet clung to Duff’s pants as he strode into the surf, and she could see the curve of his ass. Man, he was fine.”

Get your head in the game—I swear, I thought they were trouble!

But okay, I did grow to like Sinjin (mostly because of Petra). And yeah, I also liked his silly humor and the way he didn’t take himself too seriously.

“Petra looked up to the moon as if appealing to its grace. She liked this one and wanted more, but she was afraid there was no hope of that.
“Sorry, I just … So you used to be a guy. J. T. Woodland. Of Boyz Will B Boyz.”
“Yes.” “Right.”
“It’s okay. I can tell you’re freaked out.”
Petra started to get up. Sinjin took her wrist gently. “Well, yeah. But mostly because you used to be in Boyz Will B Boyz. That’s unbelievable! I mean, you played Top of the Pops!”
Petra allowed a small smile. He had surprised her. That didn’t happen often. She sat down again. “Should I tell you the story?”
“How much should I tell you?”

I really, really liked them.

“Carefully, he tucked a strand of hair behind Petra’s ear and let his hand rest for a moment against the soft, wide plain of her cheekbone. “I think you’re beautiful. And brave. And really fucking cool. And you can make Charles Dickens puns.”
Petra leaned the weight of her face into Sinjin’s palm. “You know who and what I am. So, if this is just the old curiosity shop, you can stop right now.”
Sinjin looked her in the eyes. There was not a trace of smirk in his expression. “‘I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.’”
“David Copperfield,” Petra whispered, positioning her lips close to his.
“Why are you bringing magicians into it?” Sinjin said and kissed her tenderly. It was a kiss small in its ministrations but epic in its feeling.”


...Libba Bray sure knows how to shut me up. I mean, how could I forget that she's a master at writing swoon worthy romances????

Like, damn. That scene with Adina and Duff in the cabin made me sweat. But then...when his true assholish behaviour was revealed, I was appalled.

“She tapped Duff on the arm. He tipped his head back to look up at her. “Hello, Mary Lou.”
“Could you stand up, please?”
Duff gave the boys an I-wonder-what-this-is-about look. “Sure thing.” He stood and faced Mary Lou. “What’s up?”
“This.” Mary Lou’s fist connected with Duff’s face in an audible crunch. He tottered like a drunk. And if there had been a clock on the island, it would have ticked off exactly three seconds before he lost consciousness and went down hard in the sand.
“Ow!” Mary Lou shook out her hand. Then she took her place at the fire and drank the rest of Duff’s coconut milk, drinking till she was sated.”

And thank you, Mary Lou, for handling the situation like a pro. I won't forget Duff's awfulness anytime soon.


The hurt was a pain in the center of my chest. And his 'apology' was so half-hearted, it only made things worse for me.

But the girls didn't let those bumps along the road falter the course of their actions.

“We could take the world by storm, you know? It’ll be like we proved ourselves, like all those heroes’ journey stories about boys, only we’re girls.”

At its core this book was a very character driven one, which was my favorite thing. We had an incredible wide cast of characters that I connected with one way or another.

I found myself in Petra’s determination, in Shanti's soundness, in Nicole's sensibleness, in Taylor’s unwavering commitment, and I could go on and on —but bottom line, these girls made me feel at home.

I think it’s safe to say that Libba Bray has got my heart with all these remarkably fleshed-out characters. I'm still moony-eyed after everything.

To put it simply, Beauty Queens - at heart - is a sad sort of beautiful. Like all the best books.

“There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.
They were becoming.
They were.”

Also, I have to mention this next tiny detail because it warmed my heart:


(A high school hallway. A girl, MARCIA, slams her locker door in frustration. She looks haggard. NATALIE and RACHEL stand off to one side, watching and shaking their heads.)"

What are the chances that both my name and my sister’s name (Rachel) would be on the same page?

My reaction to it totally reminded me of this vine.

4.5 stars

*Note: I'm an Amazon Affiliate. If you're interested in buying Beauty Queens, just click on the image below to go through my link. I'll make a small commission!*

This review and more can be found on my blog.
February 2, 2016
In Lord of the Flies by William Golding, the boys wrecked and alone on an island act as Golding says boys being true to their nature will. And it ain't pretty, gangs, anarchism, bullying, murder... It's a brilliant book.

So is Libba Bray's. What she has to say about women in Beauty Queens also wrecked and alone on an island, is that even the most dedicated fashionista of a girl with her acrylic nails and furry false eyelashes is solid when she has to be. In real life, these girls go home in the evening kick off their stiletto heels, put on some jeans and see to the kids. Dinner, homework, ironing school uniform, making lunch boxes, and putting them to bed is the minimum amount of work. If they have a partner, it gets even more complicated.

Only then, only after they have looked after the family do they touch up their acrylics and add another coat to their toenails and ring the girlfriends for gossip, scandal and plans. Next day, when the kids have been breakfasted and sent on their way and the laundry loaded into the machine, our heroine will again be ghetto-fabulous with glossy pouted lips and looking like she wasn't really made of steel at all.

That's women, and Libba Bray got it in this geniusly funny book where every taboo, social norm and anything that gets in the way of women being true to themselves is knocked about and eventually trampled underfoot by all. All the girls will come to see their true worth although some of them do hang on to their self-image as dumb blonde but pretty until forced out of it by necessity. All the girls are different and some when they define themselves as capable women without any need to impress with looks will finds paths far different from that of the beauty pageant they were on their way to enter.

This isn't to say that all women are good cookies, no there are the truly evil sociopathic baddies too. Close to the ending the plot goes haywire (in a good way) and a very manipulative woman based on a real-life character is revealed. A bit of googling and you can easily find out who she is. To say more would be a spoiler.

This should be read alongside Lord of the Flies in school, but it won't be. It's too much fun, too many (actually not enough) lipsticks and definitely not literary enough. It is a 5 star read, and a good boost to confidence for teenage girls who think that looks are enough. They aren't unless they aspire to be in the Playboy Mansion or be famous like the Kardashian trash which is more than sad. They should read this book and see that they can do anything at all they want and still like putting on the paint and pouting for a selfie.

Read Dec 31,2014, reviewed Aug 22, 2015
Profile Image for Nancy.
557 reviews768 followers
September 9, 2015
Cross-posted at Outlaw Reviews and at Shelf Inflicted

I was on the fence about this book. A story about teen beauty pageant contestants stranded on a desert island just doesn’t do anything for me. After reading Stephanie's review, I decided to try the audio version. At first, I thought it was ridiculous, irritating and just plain stupid. It wasn’t long before I was laughing and snorting in public places.

In the beginning, it was a little difficult to get to know the characters. The story is told from different perspectives and it was hard for me to get all the girls straight. Some of them had unique qualities and “secrets” that made them stand out, while others were a little flat and unmemorable.

I loved the Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts Page, the wacky footnotes that explained products and status symbols, famous personalities, and TV shows, like “Bridal Death Match, the popular TV show about brides who cage fight each other in order to win the wedding of their dreams.”

This story is a satire about the superficiality of consumer culture, politics, and mega-corporations that control everything we watch, read, and buy. It deals with racism, disability, and sexuality. There is adventure, mystery, and a dollop of romance. There are important messages here about survival, friendship, beauty, acceptance, independence, and what it means to be a woman.

Hilarious, empowering, honest, and highly recommended.

Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,825 followers
June 30, 2017
This was a ridiculously fun book! A satire/lampoon of so many things it was hard to keep track (but I tried): beauty pageants, gender roles, commercialism, marketing, government corruption, etc. etc. etc.

It was bizarre . . . It was silly . . . It was fantastic!

While geared toward the YA crowd, I think the tongue-in-cheek cynicism is something that can be appreciated by anyone who enjoys smart, sarcastic humor. Bray makes a lot of really great points through a story that could easily be dismissed on the surface (especially with a bikini model on the cover and a title like Beauty Queens - don't judge a book by its cover!).

If you like smart humor, satire, and books that make really great points through the strangest series of events, you have got to check this out!
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
August 3, 2017
This book was definitely very different than what I thought. I thought this was done really, really well and I couldn't dislike it because it just has so many amazing themes. I respect Libba Bray so, so much for writing this. There's so much representation and feminism and I definitely understand why it's an option for the juniors at my school to read as an independent novel. I just wish some of the boys would pick it up, too.
In the end, this was just a little too random and bizarre for me. I love the exaggeration of everything and the purposeful unrealisticness was hilarious, but some of the political conflict confused me (im still not sure what The Corporation is).
Nevertheless I would recommend trying this just because it is really, REALLY different, hilarious, and has a great message.
Profile Image for Amanda.
282 reviews315 followers
November 26, 2011
Meh. Just meh. Beauty Queens is not at all what I expected. What I expected was a group of beauty queens crash land on an isolated island and it's not long before the ruthlessness of the pageant morphs into a violent "survival of the fittest" mentality, a la Lord of the Flies. I would have also settled for a dark and biting satire on consumerism and pop culture. Alas, what I got was an increasingly irritating "Girl Power!" message that never quite got off the ground as it never quite rejected everything it didactically preached against. As a message of female empowerment, it has all the depth of Day-to-Night Barbie (oh, how I remember that Barbie in her pink, tailored "go-getter" workplace dress that conveniently converted into a sparkly tulle evening number, proving to little girls that we could be serious and glamorous while we had it all).

To begin with, the novel was far too long and tried to pack in too much for what it was. Beauty queens crashing onto a deserted island is more than enough for a quirky, humorous read, but Bray packs everything she possibly can into the novel: pop culture gags, pro-LGBT messages, reclamation of female sexuality, skewerings of materialism and consumerism, secret lairs and evil mega-corporations. Hell, there's even an evil dictator named Mo-Mo who is a thinly veiled version of Kim Jong-Il. And on top of all of this is a thick layer of "You're perfect just the way you are!" frosting that makes everything A-Okay.

Now I'm a fan of all of these messages (and I especially applaud Bray for including lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters). The problem is that the characters start off as stereotypical beauty queens, focused only on cosmetics, weight, dresses, and winning. The disconnect from society provided by the island gives them the opportunity to explore who they truly are without the consumer and societal "noise" telling girls what they should be. This is all well and good, but the girls seem to undergo an inauthentic sea-change in personality after building a few huts and sewing sparkly banners to attract help. They then become more intellectual, empowered versions of themselves, but no less stereotypical: the prickly feminist, the smart Indian girl, the tough lesbian, the defiant deaf girl, and the dumb bimbo who is trying, like, really hard to be smart. And then there is the tiny contingent of girls who survive for no other reason than to shoot off one-liners and help move the plot along. They're never given any depth or dimension, and are never really referred to by anything other than their "Miss . . . " title. The only interesting character is Taylor, the ultimate pageant girl, who finally snaps and, in a nod to Heart of Darkness and maybe even Tim O'Brien's Sweetheart of the Song Tra Bong, becomes one with the violence that has always lain dormant within her.

Bray vacillates between slapstick humor and serious messages. While I did enjoy the first few chapters and there were some lines that made me laugh, most of the humor was predictable and inspired only an eye-roll as I turned the page. Unfortunately, the smart stuff, the stuff that needs to be recognized and addressed, becomes lost in the fluff. The novel's own inane silliness ultimately downplays what could have been a more powerful exploration of being a girl in today's society. Or it could have been just a fun powder puff of a novel. Either way, it would have been better than what it ultimately turned out to be. I suppose I could be accused of taking this more seriously than I should have, but I think the same argument could be made of Bray. By the ending chapter, the girls dance their way off the stage while the narrator tells us what they're wearing and gives a synopsis of what their future lives hold. Like Day-to-Night Barbie, they look fabulous and have fabulously successful lives. For the same reason I ultimately got rid of Barbie, I think I'll get rid of Beauty Queens.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,084 reviews17.5k followers
September 8, 2017
The corporation would like to apologize for the preceding pages. Of course, it's not at all okay for girls to behave this way. Sex is not meant to be this– a consensual expression of love. No, sex is meant for selling cars. And beers. And religion.

This is one of the funniest books I've read in my life. If you're looking for an afternoon laughing at how fucked up our society is, laughing at all aspects of society and of women's beauty-queen treatment, this is the perfect book for you.

I'm not necessarily going to say that everyone will enjoy this; the humor is a certain taste and won't be right for everyone. I'd recommend reading the first 60 or so pages to find out whether the humor is your type. Or maybe you can tell just from the quotes. Okay, try this one:
Sosie Simmon's Fun Fact: “I am hearing impaired but that doesn’t stop me! I hear with my heart. Well, not really. Because, as anybody who is not a complete and total moron knows, the heart does not have ears. This is the kind of s**t they make disabled people say all the time so everybody’s all “okay” with us. Soooo annoying.”

See what I mean? It's the odd, offbeat, sarcastic kind of humor. Fans of Goldy Moldavsky's Kill The Boy Band or No Good Deed might especially enjoy this.

The real strength of this book is that despite the comedy aspects, this book goes deeper. Beauty Queens is not a story about stereotypically bitchy mean girls - in fact, it's full of messages about finding yourself. There is also so much diversity in this book. Just among out leads, there are multiple women of color, a Deaf bi character, a trans character, and a lesbian character.
“There is no I in “team.”
“There’s no U in asshole, either, and yet …”

VERDICT: If the offbeat tone works for you, this is completely worth the read. It is fucking hilarious.
Profile Image for Deanna .
664 reviews12.4k followers
September 5, 2015
I read this a few years ago and usually I don't remember much about a book after that long unless it was a particularly good read. This is one of those books that stayed with me because it was just so entertaining. I forgot to update my Goodreads with it but happened across a GR friends review and remembered.

I saw somewhere that someone said it's like "Lost" meets "Clueless" and I think that that is an accurate description...although maybe I would add "Mean Girls" and "Toddlers & Tiara's" to the mix. Beauty Queen tantrums are probably similar at any age....

The Miss Teen Dream Pageant contestants are on their way to an island rehearsals before the big show when their plane crashes on a desert island. Many of the contestants and ALL of the adult chaperons perish in the crash.....only 13 beauty queens survive.

However, there are not just the beauty queens on the island. We have not normal pirates but REALITY TV pirates! Also the psychotic CEO of the company (and former beauty queen) who is all about the money no matter what. Plus other characters who add that much more to the story. We also have "The Corporation" as a character and have little footnotes, interviews and even commercial breaks!

So what do you get when 13 beauty queens are stranded on a desert island without adequate supplies? The answer is not quite what you might expect. Witty, over-the-top, tongue in cheek humour and funny situations yes but also a good dose of empowerment and self-discovery as the beauty queens try to survive.

I thought the book was very well written and I finished it in a day or two. At first I thought this would be a very shallow book but it really was quite inspirational at times. Some serious laugh out loud moments. This novel was originally intended for young adults. However, there is some sex, violence and drugs so I guess it would depend on the maturity of the reader. But in my opinion this book would be enjoyed by adults as well...

I really enjoyed it!
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,447 reviews7,539 followers
March 28, 2014
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

3.5 Stars

This program is brought to you by The Corporation: Because Your Life Can Always Be Better™.

You probably know The Corporation for its awesome products

and barrier breaking television programs like “Girls Gone Rumspringa”

but this special episode brings us back to The Corporation’s roots - The Miss Team Dream Beauty Pageant!!!!

No one ever expected a plane full of Teen Dream beauty contestants would crash (don’t worry, most of them get killed off so you don’t have to follow the story of 50 different pageant girls), but crash it did.

Now the girls find themselves on what they believe to be a deserted island, but what is really The Corporation’s secret headquarters. Not only that, but the face behind The Corporation/the Miss Teen Dream pageant (now presidential hopeful) is there and may just be the devil in disguise . . .

[insert audible gasp] . . .

(too soon? Naaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh.)

Follow along as the girls not only perfect their talent for the pageant

but learn how to survive and maybe even kick a little ass

Oh, and make sure you stay tuned in so you don’t miss out on the super sexy pirates of “Captains Bodacious”

Whoops, I said SEXY pirate . . .

*End Promo*

Okay, have you been looking for a laugh and to read something that is NEVER serious (at all) and is just fun and fluff and completely over-the-top????? If so, read this. Completely adorable and so much better than I was expecting.

Profile Image for Stacia (the 2010 club).
1,045 reviews3,954 followers
July 11, 2013
"Pirate rock stars? Please, that's like the heroin of television."

Beauty Queens : Proving that it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

2.5 stars. I would actually watch a show with pirate rock stars.

So this is satire. Before you read this book, it is important to know that it is not meant to be taken seriously. If you find yourself hating certain characters, they were probably written that way for a reason. I generally like satire, parodies, or anything using some form of ironic wit to make a greater point - in small doses.

I think it's very hard to carry an entire book of over-exaggerated humor without people getting tired of it after a certain point. For me, the exhaustion hit somewhere around the 30% mark. Bray's observances about the flaws within the beauty industry in general were spot-on and I appreciated that. However, I still felt like the ideas were getting stale after a while.

On the positive side, Bray's wit was hilarious. I admit to grinning at a lot of the dialogue.

On the negative side, by adding in the commercial breaks and extra commentary from the corporation (and t.v. show angle), it took a fun concept and stretched it out far past an acceptable length for the story. I kept thinking that if the book had been focused only a plane crash and the contestants of the pageant, that it could have been so much better.

I wonder how much more I would have enjoyed this if the point of view had been scaled back to one main focus instead of jumping around all over the place. If things had been different, I could easily see giving this book 4 stars.

But for what this was, I feel the need to state that the complaints were more about what I do and don't like and not a reflection on if the book was a success or not. I already knew before this that Bray could write her ass off and she continued to prove that here with Beauty Queens. I can't fault the author for choosing the format that she chose for this story, but it's not a format that I preferred to read here. It's just a personal preference.

You've never read satire? Well, here's a sample.
"My head kinda hurts," Miss New Mexico said. Several of the girls gasped. Half of an airline serving tray was lodged in her forehead, forming a small blue canopy over her eyes.
"What is it?" Miss New Mexico checked to make sure her bra straps weren't showing.

Some girls argued over whether the death of Miss Massachusetts - favored by the bookies to win the whole thing - meant that the competition would never feel entirely fair.

They were going to replace it with that show about Amish girls who share a house with strippers, Girls Gone Rumpsringa?

"My mom let me use that song for my Christian pole dancing routine."

"I want to pursue a career in the exciting world of weight-management broadcast journalism. And help kids not have cancer and stuff."

Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,195 followers
January 26, 2012
Kayso, like, after three books in a row that kinda sorta made me angry, I wanted to, like, read something totally funny and ridiculous. And I was like "Beauty Queens" a book about teen beauty queens on a plain, that like OMG, crashes on a desert island and they have to survive and stuff, wouldn't make me, like, have to think and stuff....none of that politicy stuff either....yuk.

But I was wrong. Yes this is a story about 50 beauty contestants for a pageant called Miss Teen Dream, and how the 12 survivors survive. And yes it is funny and ridiculous, but it also has Lady Bird Hope, which is Sarah Palin (if you have any doubt, listen to the audio version). Mo Mo,
Dear Leader, Kim Jong-Il. Black Water, too big to fail The corporation that is in control of everything. The LBGT community is represented. Objectification and exploitation of women is addressed. Being comfortable with your sexuality and not being ashamed of it is in there too. Of course the biggest lesson of all, you do not mess with Texas, especially Miss Texas.


I thouroghly enjoyed this book...I listened to the audio version, read by the author. Now this can go either way. Neil Gaiman, David Sedaris, and Stephen King, do a very good job reading their books. But this guy,Todd Burpo reads his terrible book Heaven is for Real.....I just don't want to think about it. Libba Bray did a very good job reading Beauty Queens. In the beginning I was a bit unsure, she sounded a bit snarky, but as the book moved along it got better. Her Sarah Palin is really good, Her Kim Jong-il sounded like Steve Martin's character "Wild and Crazy Guy" from SNL...which made me laugh, even though not quite correct.

I liked it.
Profile Image for Claude's Bookzone (on hiatus).
1,501 reviews201 followers
July 31, 2021

Well there were so many laugh out loud moments in this completely bonkers and over the top satirical look at beauty pageants!

I had so much fun with our Miss Teen Dreamers as they put all their beauty pageant talents to good use after they crash land on a remote island. I thought the advertising and footnote interludes were hilarious and clever. This will not be for everyone as it is totally ludicrous at times and I did think it needed to be shortened as that level of cray cray and narration style felt a bit much at times. The characters were wonderful and diverse with the theme of identity a strong focus of the book. I would have cut out a couple of the minor story arcs myself but still a solid 4 stars for me!
Profile Image for ♛Tash.
223 reviews211 followers
July 11, 2015
Reading Beauty Queens evoked a lot of questions on what it means to be a woman in this pageant of life. The most important of which is - am I a Sparkle Pony or a Lost Girl?

I'm definitely a Sparkle Pony.

3.5 stars, quite an enjoyable, fast-paced read, equally laced with black humor and life affirmations, from start to finish.

“‎Just because you're funny doesn't mean you get to be cruel.”

And Beauty Queens truly is funny, but the humor is never disparaging, even when it confronts heavy subjects such as feminism, transgenderism and racial stereotypes.

Every story which involves a group of persons stranded in an island is bound to be compared to Lord of the Flies, but instead of going gangsta cray (obvs I haven't read Lord of the Flies), the girls *gasp* bond and get along instead.

I enjoyed Libba Bray's writing. She easily and cogently maneuvered switching POVs, even that of a deranged dictator with a penchant for Elvis wigs. It was very easy to imagine Libba Bray having lots of fun writing this, while (perhaps) chugging a bottle of Vodka, for her to come up with Man Flower and General Good Times.

It started out very strong and continued on until the sexy pirates arrived, with their washboard abs, lush hair, tight breeches and British accent.

Imagine 3 of him...

and 2 of him wash ashore on your deserted island...ugh the horror

In Adina's own words:

"All you had to do was introduce the scent of testosterone and perfectly capable, together girls were reduced to giggling, lash-batting, hair-playing idiots."

Trust me, that is something I never thought I'd ever say, but there it is, the hot pirates kind of burned the 1.5 stars away from me.

Overall though I recommend this read for General Good Times.

PS. I apologize for the pathetic metaphor, there were just too many Ladybird Hope pageant metaphors. They got to me man!
December 1, 2021
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

This novel proved to be the perfect 'escape' read. While I may not have been enamoured by every single book I've read by Libba Bray (the finales to her series left me a wee bit unsatisfied) I do consider her to be an amazing writer and a favourite of mine. Usually, however, her books are in the realms of the 'historical', so I wasn't sure what to except from Beauty Queens, I just knew that after watching a certain series I fancied a Lord of the Flies kind of tale (with a female ensemble). And wow...Bray sure delivered. Beauty Queens was everything I didn't know I wanted. This is the kind of satirical teen comedy that will definitely appeal to fans of classics such as Heathers, But I'm a Cheerleader, and Mean Girls. The story, writing, and characters are all over the top in the best possible of ways. This is the funniest book I've read in 2020.

Beauty Queens begins with 'the Corporation' addressing us readers, “This story is brought to you by The Corporation: Because Your Life Can Always Be Better™. We at The Corporation would like you to enjoy this story, but please be vigilant while reading”. We are also told to keep vigilant as the story we are about to read may have some 'subversive' content. Throughout the novel there are footnotes by 'the Corporation', sometimes advertising ridiculous products and sometimes professing distaste or disapproval over a certain scene.
The novel mainly follows nine beauty queens contestants who after surviving a plane crash that killed the majority of the other contestants (one for each state) find themselves on a seemingly deserted island. Rather than focusing on two or three contestants, Bray gives each of these nine beauty queens a backstory (I think only three contestants do not receive this treatment). We start with Adina, Miss New Hampshire, an aspiring journalist who joined the contest only to expose how misogynistic it is. At first Adina is snarky and not a great team player. Although she calls herself a feminist she has very 'fixed' notion of feminism, and her relationship with the other contestants will slowly challenge her previous views (on the contest itself, on liking thinks deemed 'girly',etc.). She immediately takes against Taylor, Miss Texas, the 'leader' of the surviving beauty queens. Taylor insists that they should keep practicing their routines for the contest as she believes that help is on the way. Taylor is badass, and I definitely enjoyed her character arc (which definitely took her down an unexpected path). We then have many other entertaining and compelling beauty queens: Mary Lou, who becomes fast friends with Adina in spite of their seemingly opposing views when it comes to sex; Nicole, the only black contestant, who wants to be a doctor but has been time and again been pressured into contests by her mother; participating as the only black contestant faces racism from the contest itself and the her peers; Shanti, an Indian American girl from California, who initially sees Nicole as 'competition' but as time goes by finds that she is only who understands how challenging it can be to navigate predominately white spaces; Petra, a level-headed girl who faces a different kind of prejudice; Jennifer, a queer girl who loves comics and has often been deemed a 'troubled kid'; Sosie, who is deaf and always feels that she has to be happy in order to make others feel more 'comfortable'; and, last but not least, Tiara, who at first seems like a comedic character, the ditzy or dumb blonde, but who soon proves that she is a very empathetic girl.
The girls don't always get on with one another. In spite of their different backgrounds, interests, and temperaments, they have all been made to feel inadequate or 'too much'.
As if surviving a deserted island wasn't difficult enough a certain corporation is running some secret operation not far from the girls' camp. Throw in some pirates/reality show contestants and there you have it.
Bray satirises everything under the sun: reality shows, beauty contests, pop culture, beauty products, corporations. While some of her story's elements may be a bit 'problematic' in 2020, her satire never came across as mean spirited. In the end this is a story about acceptance and female solidarity. Bray shows all the ways in which society pressures and controls teenage girls, allowing for diverse perspectives and voices. Most of all, this novel is hilarious. Bray handles her over the top storyline and characters perfectly.
What more can I say (or write)? I loved it. This is the kind of uplifting read I would happily re-read.
Profile Image for prag ♻.
588 reviews587 followers
February 10, 2018
surprise!!! i read books!!! and yes all my books come from elise's 5 star shelves now because there's nobody else i trust

maymay if you're a good friend you will see this review and if you see this review you will read this book

pragya out
Profile Image for disco.
562 reviews221 followers
September 20, 2018
How the HELL has this not been made into a movie.

I implore you to listen*** to this.
Profile Image for Meredith Holley.
Author 2 books2,236 followers
July 13, 2011
In most ways, this book was absolutely written for me. It is LOST + Miss Congeniality + Susan Faludi’s Backlash. Sarah Palin and GW stand-ins make appearances to be generally villainous. It has lovely, lovely girls, lots of action, and some pretty hilarious jokes. Oh, and hilarious jokes in the footnotes. (Because why use endnotes, people? No need to be coy.) There is one about putting dolls on a pedestal that is my favorite joke in the book, if you want to know. The odd thing about the book is that it mixes slapstick detachment and satire with some pretty touching, beautiful moments. Sometimes that is jarring. Sometimes the girls are caricatures of social stereotypes, and other times they are breathtaking hope for the future. It was difficult for me to transition between the two, but in general, I really loved both moods of the story.

So, this is not going to be a fair review. I’d say it’s even going to be borderline hypocritical. I did a lot of sputtering about a feminist critique of Bridesmaids because WTF, people, does everything have to be the ideal feminist mantra? Sometimes a story about girls is just a story about girls. The tough thing about this book is that I feel like it was making some pretty purposeful feminist statements, so I think it opened itself up to more criticism because of that. It’s not really fair that I feel that way, and I found the things it did really thought provoking, but the book’s going to get some extra scrutiny over it.

First, I love Mary Lou. I love love love her. Even though I will not get over my bitter disappointment about pirates this easily, I love her story. I think the writing is electric around her. I love her.

I love the other girls as well, but Mary Lou is special. I think each girl in the story represents overcoming some kind of stigmatized female experience. Maybe Mary Lou’s experience was more real to Ms. Bray because I found it absolutely vivid, where the others seemed researched. In the way that all the girls are reactions to misogyny (and by that I don’t mean sexism from men. I like how Bray is clear about how women perpetuate misogyny, too.) the story made me a little sad. I always look for those beautiful female characters who are not reacting to anyone, but just being wonderful in who they are. I like seeing women who aren’t putting on a show. I think it would be easy to compare these girls to Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, but I really think Elle remains herself throughout the movie. She doesn’t have a moment where she turns on herself and says, “Oh wait. I am an idiot because I care about pretty things.” That is who she is in the beginning and it saves the day in the end.

I also love how Adina talks about girls looking to romantic relationships for self-definition. If someone desires us, it makes us desirable. It makes a relationship more than it is, and something it shouldn't be. I love how she identifies it and says that it is not how she wants to be.

A few things that troubled me, though. This book starts with the premise that a girl would only do pageants because of a social or emotional disturbance. As the story unravels, the girls reveal, one by one, the social or emotional wounds that led them to be in the pageant. I don’t know how I feel about that assumption. I like the idea that pageant girls can kick ass, too, but I don’t love the idea that being pretty is the sign of psychological disturbance. To be fair, on a few occasions, Bray does very consciously make the point that it’s okay to like being pretty, but the assumption is still there, underlying the whole book.

The other premise that shows up in the book is that girls need an island to overcome what we're socially trained to be. That's more of a thesis of the book, as Penny very correctly points out. I'm not totally down with that idea either. It has this kind of hopelessness, like culture is so entrenched in unhealthy expectations for girls that there is no room for real girls in culture. That idea bums me out, and I don't think it's true. There is an Awakening quality to it that I hope strong female writers get past, and that I think some have gotten past. We are here! The world is for us too!! Don't give it up, girls, and retreat to your own private islands. I mean, I love The Awakening and I love The Yellow Wallpaper and The Bell Jar, but I think there also needs to be room for girls in culture. There need to be elbowing and kidney-kicks to people who try to tell girls that the world isn't for them. I don't think floating away to an island is the answer for girls becasue it is aka suicide, for those of you who are not up on your hopeless women writers. And that is not the answer.

Anyway, back to the girls. I don’t want to spoiler who all the girls are for you, because some of the reveals are pretty fun. None of them are surprising, but they are pretty fun. Unfortunately, I think that the way the girls end up is really important to the way I’m looking at the book, so I’m going to hide a little bit of my discussion of it. I’d really say go read it for yourself before you read my spoilers because what I’m saying will probably get into your brain in a way that will make your reading of it less fun. So, come back once you’ve read it, and we’ll discuss.

It’s tough because there were a lot of characters in this book. It was difficult to give them all humanity and depth, I’m sure, and so some worked out better than others. There were a couple of points where, if I had put the book down for a little while, I would come back to it and forget who Miss New Mexico or Ohio were. There was a lot going on. Still, though, it was really fun and funny, and tear-jerky at a couple of points for me. It will definitely not be a five-star book for everyone, but I had a beautiful day out in the hammock reading it, so it is giving a halo to the experience. Also, as I guessed from the moment I first saw its cover, I am the intended audience for this book.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,459 reviews8,561 followers
August 23, 2011
I wish I had enough money to buy every girl attending my high school a copy of Beauty Queens. Actually, I wish I had enough money to buy every girl from the age of 15 to 21 a copy of this book. I bow down to Libba Bray for pulling off such a crazy concept - a plane of beauty pageant contestants crash on an island - when it could have gone horribly wrong in the hands of a less competent author.

On the outside, Beauty Queens is about an ensemble of shallow, teenaged girls surviving on an island. But, just like the girls themselves, it offers much more. Bray tackles a wide array of tough subjects like male vs. female double standards and GLBT tolerance with skillful satire and impressive honesty.

Some books you read in silence. Beauty Queens isn't one of those books. Libba Bray holds nothing back in her upbraiding of the superficial nature of society, yet it never gets overwhelming - the humor in this book is wonderfully witty and refreshing. I laughed out loud so many times I regret not buying a copy so I could note when the funniest moments took place. Almost every other page contained a joke or wisecrack that made me smile, like when one contestant states the importance of aiding non-Americans after being asked her favorite color.

I probably haven't done this book justice, so I'll just tell you to go out and get a copy to read. ASAP. I had my doubts after reading and disliking Going Bovine by Bray, but Beauty Queens has placed her on my list of authors to watch out for. Definitely recommended.

*cross-posted from my blog the quiet voice.
Profile Image for Rose.
1,872 reviews1,055 followers
December 4, 2013
Whoa, where do I start on Libba Bray's "Beauty Queens"? I haven't had a book completely blindside me as far as content goes for quite some time. I'm clearly at a loss for words as I write this review, because 1. I'm trying not to hold my sides from laughing so much at this book, and 2. I don't quite know how to explain "Beauty Queens" appeal when it has so many elements in it that work, but theoretically shouldn't. That might sound odd, but I'll explain it as I go into further detail.

I went into this novel with one idea of what it would be about, but was completely surprised when it turned several measures on its head and ran with them. There were times when I thought "Oh no, Bray did not just go there," and pretty much in the scheme of events, Bray's response was "Yes, I did go there, and I'll take it one step further." A word of warning: this novel tackles satire and dark humor alongside addressing diversity, commercialism (very heavy amount of commercialism), sexuality, feminism/gender roles, among other measures. I firmly believe that this book will not be a one size fits all in terms of how it comes across.

And yet I loved, no, adored this book. It made me laugh for a good portion of the read. There were some things I had to swallow with a huge spoon of sugar, but I think Bray's work had a lot of heart behind it. Not so much on the developmental side as much as it was on the "off-the-cuff", eye to stereotyping that seems to poke fun at itself whenever it can. And yet it had many important things to say about being true to who you are and not giving into the mixed messages that are sold to you in society - that's what I came out of it with and I do appreciate that Bray chose to tell this tale the way she told it. Heck, I didn't know Bray had a background in marketing, and with the commercial incorporation in this book, I thought the way she delivered them were brilliant. The footnotes were a fun add as well (and this was one of the times I would say they were done very well in fiction).

The long and short of what this book is about is this: a group of teen beauty queens from the United States crash land on a deserted island and are left to fend for and among themselves. Some of them make it, some of them don't, but this novel is about the ones that do. You'd think this would be slightly depressing, but it has this cheerful snark that doesn't hesitate to punch where it can.

There's a fair helping of characters here that are somewhat stereotypical. Token confident Texas girl (who pulls a Rena* a good way into the novel), token dim-witted beauty, token minorities, token girl with a disability, etc. Technically, token characters would have me on my toes to protest and rage, but the sharp humor they put across somehow endeared me to them. I gradually got to know them as more than their purported portrayals, even if there were certain places where the novel developed them and became a little sluggish in the process. The humor was very self aware, and Bray doesn't hesitate to turn certain troupes on their heads and come across with them in ways you'd least expect. There are quite a bit of characters to keep up with, but surprisingly I got to know each of them. What made the backbone of this novel was the way they interacted with each other to survive and while I wouldn't say the changes within them were necessarily deep, detailed or profound, they were noteworthy and showcased a clear growth from where they were in the beginning of the novel.

The girls are all a part of the pageant for their own reasons, some even having quite a bit of secrets to hide, but the reveals are fun, and ultimately as the novel goes forward, there are a number of colorful characters that the girls come across that even add to the enjoyment of the novel. I actually ended up enjoying the pirates with the hot abs, even. =P

In the end, this was a fun novel that I enjoyed immensely for my first read from Bray, and I would not hesitate to re-read it again. I recommend it for those who want a funny story with some strong witty commentary about contemporary society, female empowerment, and just a very different read from the typical YA spectrum.

Overall score: 4/5

*Note: Rena is a character from the anime series Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni. If you have ever seen that series, you would kind of know what I'm talking about. :P
Profile Image for Romie.
1,075 reviews1,272 followers
September 11, 2017
It’s a book I never thought I would read. Simply because the synopsis didn’t sound that great to me. But people kept talking about it, so I thought ‘Why not?’ and I’m glad I gave it a try.

This book follows thirteen teenage girls - pageant beauty queens - after their plane crashed on a deserted island. At least that’s what they thought.

Beauty Queens doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s probably one of the most hilarious books I’ve ever read. But it’s also one of the most important.
It’s important because it deals with feminism, misogyny, immigration, sexuality . . . and it doesn’t shy away from telling things the way they are.

It’s one of the most diverse books I’ve had the pleasure to read : Adina is Jewish, Sosie is deaf and bisexual, Jennifer is a lesbian, Nicole is African-American, Shanti is Indian-American, and Petra is transgender.
In this book, each girl has to deal with what society taught them : how a girl should look like, the way an African-American girl should act, how an Indian-American girl should talk . . .

It’s hard to talk about this book because so many things happened! Each character gets their own story but talking about them isn’t easy.

Adina is trying to be everything her mother who had 5 husbands - each being The One - isn’t. She has this big idea of who she wants to be : hardcore feminist who doesn’t need no man in her life, someone who can openly talk about masturbation and sex, someone with a bright future ahead, someone who uses her brain . . . and she is this person, but she’s also more. She’s a best friend, she is a girl who wants to be free from her own nightmares.

Mary Lou doesn’t know who she is without her family, without her mom’s approval. She has no clue. But in this book, she learns what it’s like to really be free, to be herself, and to be loved for who she is and not what society wants her to be. She’s a pure sunshine who just wants to have some fun once in her life.

Nicole wants to be a doctor - a surgeon please - but people look down on her . . . they look down on her because they think her skin colour is something she should be ashamed of constantly, even her mom does think so. Being black in this world of white is her biggest fight, and she’s tired. She just wants to be Nicole, with her wild hair and full knowledge of the human body.

Shanti is trying hard to be the perfect stereotype of the Indian-American girl, because isn’t it what people want to hear? She’s afraid people won’t find her interesting if she turns out to be someone real, not just a stereotype.

Sosie is tired of people being like ‘poor Sosie, she can’t hear well, but look how hard she works to be one of us’ . . . she’s deaf, deal with it. She’s not here to educate you on what it means to be deaf, she’s not here to teach you a cute language - signing is how she communicates every day, not something to entertain you. She’s dealing with her feelings for both girls and boys, it’s a bit confused right now in her head, but she’s not afraid of what’s to come.

Jennifer was always the invisible one, always had to act like she’s tough and not scared of anything, but she is. She’s scared of being rejected, scared of not fitting, because’s she gay, and a nerd, because people will always judge her based on stereotypes. But there is more to her : she willing to learn anything if you take the time to teach her, she has a brilliant mind and she cares about her friends.

Petra is scared of what people will think once they discover she’s transgender, scared of being seen as a freak, a curiosity . . . but she learns to trust her friends, to open up to people who find themselves worthy of her time and patience and love.

I’m not going to talk about the plot, because I want it to stay a surprise. Just know that this book is about girls kicking the world’s ass and being badass ladies, surviving on a deserted island when everybody thought they wouldn’t survive a day. Basically this book is a big fuck you to our misogynist world. And it was delightful.

Shanti gives the signal. “One . . .”
“Two . . .” Nicole seconds.
“Three!” Adina says.
As one, they leap, laughing, and that is where we leave them - mouths open, arms spread wide, fingers splayed to take in the whole world, bodies flying high in defiance of gravity, as if they will never fall.

Profile Image for Sarah DiMento.
187 reviews520 followers
June 9, 2016
This is my first DNF of 2016. I listed to this on audiobook and honestly I'd give the audiobook itself five stars. It's narrated by Libba Bray herself and she's fantastic. The book made me laugh at first, but it got old fast. I know it's supposed to be satire, and I can appreciate that, but I just can't with these girls anymore.
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