Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Beauty Queens. Beautiful, poised, and perfect. Or are they more? When several teen beauty queen contestants crash-land on a desert island, they are lost as to what to do. Fight for survival and rescue, or continue practicing for the pageant? Keep up a facade, or let their true colors show through?
One of the strengths of the novel is the female teen characters. Many of them are very diverse with different ethnicities, sexual orientations, and gender identities. Furthermore, the way their personalities are gradually revealed as the novel progresses is very well done.
Another slight bit of strength is the use of satire in the novel to show the impact of the standards of beauty and perfection on young girls. In between the chapters, there are script of commercials and infomercials written out that are sometimes funny and sometimes meaningful. Sometimes, the humor is a bit too much, but maybe the author overdid the humor in order to show how having fun with a girl’s image is just too cruel.
The flaws of the novel start with one of the female teen characters. I don’t want to spoil too much, but this reader feels that this one teen female sets a bad example for teen girls by being sexually active in a way that is tempting.
Another flaw of the novel is with the teen male characters that show up in a later part of the book. They weren’t as well-developed as some of the female characters which bothered this reader a lot. It made it seem like mostly men were the cause of female exploitation in popular culture and that only female exploitation in popular culture was important, when males are just as exploited as them! As a female reader, I’m all for empowerment of girls, but males also need to know that they can be more than just a sexy bod.
Last but not least, the plot. The idea of having beauty queens crash-land on an island so they are forced to fend for themselves is a good main plot. The sub-plot, not so much. Evil dictator named Momo Cha-Cha trying to use the beauty pageant for his own gain? What is this, a cartoon?
Overall, this book was a so-so. Sometimes it was great, other times it was annoying. While I applaud Libba Bray for making the effort to write a thought-provoking book, it is not her best work.