PJV Quickie: My initial thoughts with ‘Beauty Queens’ were, of course, captivation with the cover, but the concept threw me through a loop. I hadn’t read Bray before, so I wasn’t familiar with her writing style or sense of humor. This led to an initial trepidation, satire is not always my cup-of-tea, along with force-fed cultural messages, but I think I made a wise choice in partaking via audiobook. Libba Bray did her own narration and the added benefit of some extra “special effects” made ‘Beauty Queens’ via audio a pleasure to experience.
Title: Beauty Queens
Authors: Libba Bray
Type: Young Adult Satire
Publication: May 24th 2011 by Scholastic Press
The descriptor, Lord of the Flies with Beauty Queens has been touted around a lot in regards to this book. And while on a base level, yes the two novels can be synonymous with the coming of age on a deserted island motif, but I think it is doing ‘Beauty Queens’ an injustice to be described as such. The novel is basically about the pressures of the teenage years in a materialistically saturated environment and how this crash landing actually enables these girls to shrug off the yokes their parents and society have placed upon their shoulders and become the women they can be and should be. But, in a fun and sparkly way of course!
In ‘Beauty Queens’ we meet a host of larger-than-life characters, like Miss Texas, Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, who is a card-carrying member of Femmes and Firearms and practically worships LadyBird Hope, one of the corporations Big Wigs and presidential hopeful, a former Miss Teen Dream winner. Then there is Adina Greenburg, Miss New Hampshire, who is actually on an under cover mission from her schools newspaper to expose the Miss Teen Dream for what it is, a subversive instrument of female repression. Or there is Mary Lou Novak, Miss Nebraska, who comes to the island wearing a purity ring, but later realizes her inner wild girl needs to roam free…
I could go on and on about the sheer hilarity of this novel and the great characters that Bray created. Even her villains were brilliant, MoMo B. ChaCha, is the leader of the Republic of ChaCha and is obsessed with American Reality television and Elvis. I was thinking Gadhafi every time his character came to the forefront. Bray paired Momo and Ladybird together and I was literally gagging imagining Sarah Palin (Bray used a nasally northern accent to represent Ladybird which had Sarah Palin written all over it) and Gadhafi going at it in a heart-shaped hot tub. Yeah — sorry for the mental image.
Take all those great characters and weave within it, off-the-wall marketing schemes, hilarious product placement and just brilliant, brilliant story creation and you’ll have an almost perfect read. Then trump that with the audiobook, which had Bray as the narrator (She did like a million different voices impeccably!). It also had sound effects with the footnotes (when the characters would mention products a footnote would appear) and commercial breaks which would have me laughing out loud and then the finale of a great interview with Bray herself – this is one I highly recommend grabbing up in audiobook form.
You don’t want to pass up this novel. Nope. Don’t do it.
This is for a more mature teen audience, sexuality, violence and cultural stigmas, along with alternative lifestyles are all covered. Fans of more wittier satires should really enjoy. It is sometimes described as a dystopian and if you are looking for this genre, I wouldn’t call this title a dystopian. The world, is a satirical depiction of our own society and while yes, it seems more nefarious then our own society, it was pretty much on target. I would not put this one in the dystopian category, more of a modern commentary.
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