Jinny's Reviews > Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
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's review
Jul 15, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: chick-lit, humor, quirky-fiction, ya-teens
Read from September 26 to October 01, 2011

Some of my friends may know that I am pretty anti-beauty-pageant. So it may come as a surprise that I decided to go and read a book about, well, beauty pageants. The synopsis said that the book was about a group of beauty queens who find themselves trapped on a deserted island and must use their beauty supplies, equipment and knowledge to survive until rescue. I actually found the idea pretty interesting, which is why I decided to put it in my “Want To Read” list (and consequently, my sister got it for me).

Fifty Miss Teen Dream beauty pageants are traveling on a plane to a beach area to take some promotional pictures. Unfortunately, the plane crash lands on a deserted island, killing nearly everyone, except for thirteen beauty queens (I believe it was thirteen — it started with twelve, but then they found one more survivor). With only themselves to depend on, the Miss Teen Dreamers attempt to organize themselves and think of ingenious ways of survival.

Meanwhile, on the same island, the Corporation is aware the Teen Dreamers have crash landed on the island. This is not part of their plan, however, they plot a way to weave the bright and beautiful young ladies of America into their plan for world domination …

I walked into this story expecting a chick-lit type book. I won’t argue if you want to categorize this book as such, but it is also a lot more than that. This book, to me, is a completely hilarious satire of American culture and lifestyle (or, more broadly, North American).

The way many of the girls hold the beauty pageant in their minds shows how much emphasis everyone puts on appearances. The way the entire book is written with (fake) product placements shows how much corporations are taking over (for example, if I remember correctly, one of the characters comment on how a natural clay she finds on the island makes a great moisturizer. It was followed by a superscript, and in the footnotes, an “advertisement” for a Corporation product: “For skin that’s silky smooth, try The Corporation’s Pore It On mask.” There were also references towards celebrities, TV shows (ex. Jersey Shore), Facebook, a variety of beauty products with silly names like Tan-So-Right. There were the beauty pageant application pages submitted by each contestant, with footnotes from The Corporation censoring certain parts or hinting that said contestant should change some of her words so that they are more Corporation friendly. And then there were the “commercial breaks”, which were my favourite: just straight-up silly, blatant satire of commercials and American lifestyle, telling you what you want, because the Corporation knows best.

There were all kinds of characters, and they were mostly one-dimensional, but given the nature of the book and the cartoon-y effect it was going for, there really was no need for “deep” characters at all. While there were some of the stereotypical “dumb blonde” type of beauty queen, I also encountered many different social issues that the characters explored in this story. We have some girls who are in the pageant because that is all they know how to do, and they are extremely determined to win. We have girls who are in the pageant only to win scholarship money to go to college. We have a Black girl and an Indian girl, who both know the odds are stacked against them because it is unspoken that there can only be one non-White beauty queen in the final round (racial issues). We even have an undercover feminist journalist who is trying to expose the beauty pageant world for what it “really is”. I know she may seem like the “beacon of hope” in a story such as this, but even she has her problems, because she’s the type of feminist who decries make-up and dressing up and fails to realize that sometimes, a girl just wants to pretty herself up, not necessarily for the sake of a boy.

This was a very fun book to read and I enjoyed it immensely. It really is laugh out loud funny and it was incredibly thrilling trying to catch all the pop culture references.

While I found the beginning of the book quite addictive, I found the last third of the book a bit eye-roll-worthy. I think the book crossed the line between satire and plain ridiculousness. The ending of the book was just a bit too cartoon-like, if you know what I mean. For example, the Corporation hanging its captives over a tank of piranha fish and slowly lowering them in head first. I also wasn’t too crazy about the shipful of hot boy (actor) pirates who randomly crash land on the deserted island, and naturally, InstaLove was abound. Granted, it was satire and meant to be humourous, so I didn’t expect any deep meaningful relationships but … come on, really?

Despite my complaint about the ending, I think all in all, this was a great story and it was really addicting to read. Even if you don’t catch all the references or understand the satire going on in the background, I think anyone can enjoy this book and take something away from it.

(Originally posted at http://skyink.net).
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Reading Progress

09/26/2011 page 121
31.0% "Really loving this so far! Thought it'd just be a fluffy book -- and it is -- but also filled with hilarious satire on American culture/lifestyle."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Daphne (Illumicrate) Let me know if this is good. They've got it in my local library and the concept seems fun

Jinny I'm about 120 pages in and so far, I am really loving it! It's very interesting because they have these "commercial break" chapters that completely make fun of american commercials and lifestyle, and the beauty pageant girls' applications interspersed between the chapters, which are hilarious to read as well.

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