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?
Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.
This book is full of laughs. In fact, the acknowledgements kinda make it seem like the whole premise started as a joke, and at times it really comes off as one: very tongue-in-cheek and good at making fun of itself. That doesn’t mean Beauty Queens doesn’t have a serious message, though, nor that it isn’t a good book. It’s a great book that can look at itself and laugh too.
The book’s loosely based off Lord of the Flies in a semi-dystopian future where The Corporation seems to own the country and The Corporation’s head is a shoo-in for President of the country. There isn’t that much technological or societal change, though, other than some increasingly violent and stupid reality tv shows, so it could very well be a next-year kinda future. I know, barely speculative fiction, but I liked this book so much I’m gonna call it good. The characters are well fleshed out, and Bray does an excellent job of giving them distinct and separate personalities that hide under their perfect beauty queen veneer. The plot twists are great as well, although the sheer number of people that end up on the ‘deserted’ island is a little unrealistic. Mostly, though, this book is about its message. It’s rather hard to pinpoint what it is, other than feminist, because it jumps around to many different things: you can be what you want to be, break your parents’ mold, don’t listen to society’s expectations of you, exploring sexuality is good, girls are strong and smart and just as capable as guys. They’re delivered in such a satirical, laughable way, though, that they never get too preachy or seem droll. They’re almost preachy, almost, but never quite there. I highly recommend this book, it is worthy of the award accolades it has garnered.