Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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.
I love LOVE this book! This is a very tongue-in-cheek novel- definitely not to be taken too seriously- about a group of teenage beauty queens stranded on a desert island. I was actually snickering out loud most of the time while reading this novel, at it's ridiculousness- but also admiring it's bold commentary on so many issues, like the shallowness of most of society in it's attitude towards beauty.
Try to imagine the novel that would be produced when a brilliant author falls asleep whilst channel hopping between the Sandra Bullock film Miss Congeniality and the first season of Lost, and then writes down the bizarre dream that results. This is Beauty Queens.
The girls are stranded on an island following a plane crash, with no help, and a rummage through the wreckage of the plane reveals only several sets of hair curlers, leg wax, teeth bleaching kits, and a suitcase full of ballgowns. With no food to be found all one girl can think is "awesome- I'm going to be so skinny!". Assuming that rescue must be imminent, they at first opt to work on their tans, and practice their talent for the pageant, instead of trying to find food and shelter, and a way to get rescued. They do eventually pull themselves together, and with the help of practical no-nonsense Taylor and smart wannabe journalist Edina they get organised, find food, build huts and a system for collecting water, and get along quite well.
It is the humour and the range of wonderful characters that really makes this book what it is. Pink and sparkly Tiara is the silliest, dumbest and potentially most unlikeable of all the characters, but she gets the best one-liners! Like saying that she thinks her toy dinosaur touched her "down there" when she is high on hallucinogenic berries, or demanding that girls should stay pure- before admitting that her talent was "Christian pole-dancing", or it used to be, before she gave it up when she was 12. I have so many favourite moments from this book, that it's difficult to pick the best one. Like the time when the pirate gets stung by a jellyfish and none of his friends will help him by peeing on him, so the mid-sex-change beauty contestant whips it out and does the business to a stunned audience of pirates. I think of this book and I think of Taylor setting her traps and pacing the island with her AK47 slung over her shoulder.
This novel is completely off the wall crazy sometimes but so so funny! Someone should definitely make this into a TV series. I have read some funny books but this one had me laughing so much- not just the occasional smirk or snicker but all-out guffawing. There are so many different stories from all the myriad different characters and so many different threads of the story all inter-weaving together perfectly, skillfully managing to mock corporate america, reality TV, bible-bashing fanatisism, homophobia, and a plethora of other issues.
Despite showing us the complete ridiculousness of the shallowness of the beauty pageant world you still end up loving all these girls and rooting for them through snake attacks, quicksand, giant waves and reality-tv "rockstar-pirate" induced heartbreak. The final showdown against "The Corporation" (inside the volcano- of course, where else would the secret hideout of an evil corporation be!!) shows that you should never underestimate a group of pretty girls! And who knew that by mixing leg wax and teeth whitener you could produce a powerful explosive?
This is an absolute genius of a book! I would give it 6 stars if I could! I finished this a couple of weeks ago and I still chuckle when I think about it. I loved these girls and their stories and unique personalities, and this is the kind of book that I would re-read over and over again. I have so many favourite bits, and wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book to anyone with a quirky sense of humour.