Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Scholastic Press, 2011
390 pages
YA; Satire
4/5 stars

Source: Received an ARC via Amazon's Vine program.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book, which seems to be beauty pageant meets Lord of the Flies, a book I didn't like in high school because of its lack of women.  As a plane flies to an island for some promotional shots, it falls leaving only 13 out of the 50 pageant contestants alive and struggling to survive in an unfamiliar climate and setting.

I personally struggled keeping the girls straight.  They are alternately called by their state name and by their real name and four of them never receive real names (at least as far as I could tell).  And because there were so many, none of then received the depth that a single person focused book could reveal.  However they emerged with distinct personalities and with their own backstories and motivation.

An underlying principle is that all of them feel compelled by society to act in certain ways to fulfill stereotypes of womanhood.  Their time on the island liberates them to act authentically and in accordance with how they want to be instead of how they feel they must be.

Society is represented through the presence of the Corporation. These were some of the more biting sections: my personal favorite was a set of movie trailers that placed women in their "rightful" place in relation to men.  It was also scary how much of the advertising content rang true for me.  For example the products to improve the appearance of your earlobe reminded me of the products that would improve how your underarm looks-as if anybody really cares!

However some parts didn't exactly work for me.  At one point a group of boys show up and, while I don't want to spoil specifics, one of them was surprisingly tolerant and I didn't quite buy it.  The other issue was that in general I have no interest in beauty pageants and don't really buy into some parts of that culture. My laziness supersedes an any interest in makeup or fashion that preoccupies the characters here.  However I can see many of those instances turning on a light switch for other people and I hope they get a chance to read this too.


  1. Wow, that's new: beauty pageants vs Lord of the Flies. I do like the fact that this is a satire, though, as it clearly takes an aim at the beauty industry. I like that.

  2. After Going Bovine, I'm willing to give Libba Bray every benefit of the doubt. That was one fantastic book. I'm really looking forward to Beauty Queens.

  3. Hm, sounds good but your review is a lot more balanced than many of the other reviews I've read. Thank you for that. I feel like I have a better idea of what to expect.

  4. I absolutely enjoyed this book. I went in not knowing anything about it. All I knew is that I've heard amazing things about Libba Bray. I loved this book! For some reason, I'm a huge fan of tv-show-ish books. Like The Selection by Kiera Cass and Watch Me by Lauren Barnholdt.
    Thanks for the review!

    Krystianna @ Downright Dystopian


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