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Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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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.

 

Written by Serena Zola

January 21, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Op-Ed: Should YA Books Have Movie-Style Ratings??

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Normally, I don’t post twice in one week but when something gets me fired up I have an urge to write. Earlier this afternoon, I was on the Huffington Post when I came across this article entitled, “Should YA Books Be Given Ratings?

As a former grade school student and an aspiring YA author, I am against these proposed ratings. One important reason is that YA books are in schools for required reading and pleasure reading. One example is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

When I first read this book, I was in 7th grade. I can remember reaching the climax of the book. Suddenly, my teacher said, “Ok class, we’ll stop here.” I could feel the disappointment all around me. I was feeling it inside me too. “Can we read one more chapter?” a voice asked. It reminded me of a little kid asking a mom for another treat.

Then I, along with the rest of the class, spoke our support as one. “Can we please?” Please?!” We were so ecstatic about the book, we were almost hopping like kangaroos. My teacher just smiled, laughed, and said, “Okay.” The class and I cheered and we resumed reading.

Two years after that memorable moment, I started high school. From then on, there were no more memorable moments because we were no longer reading material that engaged us and related to us.  Instead of reading young adult books, we were reading classic works like Shakespeare and The Great Gatsby.

The only bright side for me and some of my classmates came when we had to do book reports. During this time, I explored the YA section of the school library. Not all of the books I chose to read were good, but there were a few I enjoyed. Some of these books included the Hazelwood High Trilogy and the fantasy series the Daughters of the Moon.

At this point, I was aspiring to become a YA author. By the time I graduated, I had read plenty of YA books. As time passed, I started to hear about banned YA books and learned that YA writers target certain age groups when they write their works. It is for this reason that I understand why people would want these ratings. After all, a book written with sixteen year old situations would not be appropriate for a thirteen year old.

However, ratings shouldn’t be used to guide pubescent and adolescents. This is something parents should do. If it concerns them, then they should ask their kid why they want to read the book. If the reason is valid, then parents should say, “Let me read the book with you.” or “I’ll read the book, too.” If you need an excuse, say something along the lines of, “If you find it interesting, maybe I will too.” By reading what their kid reads, the parent can discuss the book with their kid as they read and provide guidance if necessary.

As previously stated, kids are exposed to YA books as early as middle school. This is also the point where kids pull away from their parents and start searching for who they are. With a parent’s a loose yet firm grip, the kids will be fine.

Written by Serena Zola

May 24, 2012 at 2:28 PM

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