Monday, October 29, 2012

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: May 1st 2011
Pages: 396
Genre: YA
Source: Bought
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The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.
What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I was so excited to read Beauty Queens. It sounded like such a fun, superficial-in-a-good-way contemporary. And everyone seems to love Libba Bray. But it just didn't work. I didn't hate the book or anything, but I didn't love it like I'd hoped I would.

Beauty Queens turned out to be very different from what I'd expected. I'm not even sure it's contemporary; it's somewhere between contemporary and dystopian, taking today's society's values to extremes. I was surprised by how much of this is social satire - I'd expected it to be ridiculing the whole beauty-queen thing, of course, but I thought it'd be more a part of the story. In Beauty Queens, it felt like social satire came first and story came second, and I think some parts, like the character development, suffered from that. For example, the novel is embedded as something the Corporation - the company that produces everything and pretty much rules the world Beauty Queens is set in - is giving to consumers, with comments from the Corporation and advertisements in between the chapters. The idea is fun, but it doesn't make much sense, because the story is very anti-Corporation. While the social satire and taking everything to extremes is entertaining, I wish the characters and their story would have been focused on more instead.

Then there's the craziness factor, which is a lot higher than I'd expected. I knew Beauty Queens would be weird, of course, since it's about a plane of beauty pageant contestants crashing on a deserted island. But the craziness doesn't stop there. I can't really talk about this without spoiling anything, but things get a lot - and I mean a lot - crazier after that. And not necessarily in a good way. The ideas by themselves are fun, but I thought it was just too much. It just got ridiculous, at some point, and I found some parts hard to follow because there's so much going on.

The social satire and the crazy plot twists left little room for character development. Most of the girls have something about them that makes them stand out, and I do like how many different groups of people are represented. But we never got to go deep enough to really explore their characters; there's no emotion. There are a lot of POVs, and it was kind of hard to keep track of  all the girls, especially because they're sometimes referred to by the states they're representing instead of their names. Not really getting to know any of the characters means I never got fully invested in the story. And things just got worse when the "sexy pirates" showed up because I did not like the romance at all - a lot of it is insta-love and it just felt forced.

All of that said, Beauty Queens does have the entertainment factor. Parts of it are laugh-out-loud funny, and I did like seeing our society taken to the extreme like that, just because it's so ridiculous. I also liked the empowering, feminist message and the whole girl-power feel of the novel. But that got in the way of character development, and some of it was too out there for me, making Beauty Queens just an okay read for me. I will have to check out some of Libba Bray's other books, though, to see if I click with one of those.


  1. I read this book a few months ago, and I felt the same way. It just felt so fake to me, and although parts of it were very funny I couldn't get into the story that much. I have read quite a few of Libba Bray's other books, and a lot of them are quite good.... I think she just fell flat with this one. One of my favorites by Libba Bray is her Gemma Doyle series... if you like fantasy/historical fiction/romance, you should definitely check it out!

  2. Hmm, I must say that I wasn't really tempted to read this book in the first place. After reading your review, I actually decided to leave it :) I do want to read her Gemma Doyle series :) Great review.

  3. Aw:( Sad you didn't love it as much as I did. I adored the satire so much I didn't mind that the character development could have been better, although I also liked that the girls were all unique and diverse. All of your reviews make it sound like characters are really important to you, though, so it makes sense that this book wasn't your favorite.


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