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Beauty Queens ~ Libba Bray

July 30, 2011

Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Publisher: Scholastic Press
400 pages
ISBN: 9780439895972
Source: Book Store

When a plane of beauty pageant contestant crash on a deserted island, the  prognosis is not good. There are no resources and even fewer answers. It would seem that stranded teens, used to primping and prepping would have no place in a rough island setting. Ah, but it soon becomes clear that all of their blood thirsty, cutthroat competition has indeed done more for them than one might think.

Some have compared this to Lost or Lord of the Flies. I can’t say that I found either one in the pages. I think that this is, by far, my favorite Libba Bray book to date and I know that I might be the only one who thinks that. See, here’s the thing: it’s a total joke.

I don’t mean badly written or poorly done. In fact, I mean the opposite. It’s literally a joke. It’s a satire in the way of old school, Jonathan Swift, or new school,  Jon Stewart. You absolutely can’t look at this as serious contemporary YA in the idea that the issues it tackles will be subtle, honest and well-respected. Rather, it’s contemporary in that it takes stereotypes for sexual orientation, sexuality, gender roles, academic pressures, cultural ideals and everything else under the adolescent sun, into high comedy by poking fun and addressing the issues head on.

I think that I have a little bit of a jaded edge when it comes to satire and fiction in general, having read a lot of political science fiction over the years. I also have had my fill of trans, queer, eco-terrorist throw downs so I might be a little more well versed in the silliness that takes place between the pages, recognizing the jokes for what they are. Many found the book to be overly stereotypical but again, I repeat, it’s not so much to be taken “seriously” but as a seriously hysterical and well placed political bumper sticker. Yes, it addresses issues but you have to take it as total, campy humor in order to “get” it.

So I’ve probably turned a lot of people off in my rambling but I hope that it will make this more accessible and more understandable. I seriously loved every second of this and really do think it’s my favorite Libba Bray piece. I hope everyone will give it a chance and that maybe in remembering to take it less seriously, it will be taken more so.

Thank you, Libba Bray. You’re seriously a genius.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. July 30, 2011 9:52 am

    Must add this to my to-read list. Sounds great. I’ve never read Libba Bray, but this might be a good starting point.

  2. July 30, 2011 1:43 pm

    I have been hearing about how campy and funny this book is, and I think I would really enjoy it. I don’t know if my daughter would get it, but I am pretty confident that she would. It sounds like you were really pleased with this one and that it had a lot of great moments in it. Glad to hear that you are giving this one the thumbs up! I may have to break down and buy this soon!

    • July 30, 2011 2:14 pm

      Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to say it would be LOST on teens but it’s definitely written for adults to enjoy. There’s a lot of adult humor (socio-political more than inappropriate). Let me know what you think when you read it!

  3. July 30, 2011 2:49 pm

    See, my problem wasn’t that the satire. I realized it was a satire and that she meant to go over the top. It just seemed way to forced to me. Regardless, I am a massive Libba Bray fan and will advocate for her massively 🙂

    • July 30, 2011 4:08 pm

      Yeah, I think some of it was for sure. I think most of it was just too funny for me to even be mad at it. I seriously will be unforgivably jealous if you ever get a chance to meet her.

      • Jpetroroy permalink
        July 30, 2011 7:43 pm

        Oh, I did meet her. My copy is autographed 🙂

      • July 30, 2011 8:15 pm

        Officially jealous!

  4. July 31, 2011 6:31 pm

    I’m hoping for another Printz win for Libba. Her writing is so versatile. Like you, I loved every second of this book. I love seeing smart humor in books for teens. Many books underestimate their intelligence. But not Ms. Bray, and I thank her for that!

    • July 31, 2011 6:41 pm

      Oh, I’m so glad you liked this, too! I was reading a few other reviews (mostly BN and Amazon, not other bloggers) that seemed to have missed the point. Sigh.

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