Second Look: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray


I can disable a fully grown man using only a compact AND without smudging my eyeliner.

While I do not know much about Libba Bray, I can say for certain that the woman is an absolute GENIUS. What else would you call someone who can turn a story about beauty pageant contestants crash landing on a deserted island into a commentary about the political and social degradation of our society? Genius, right? Right. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

This novel was billed as “America’s Next Top Model” meets “Lost.” Add a dash of a warped SNL skit, and I’d agree completely. Let’s get to the analysis!

The contestants of the Miss Teen Dream Pageant find themselves stranded on an island after traumatic plane crash. The 13 survivors must find a way to survive the island, the military who has set up shop in the jungle down the street, PIRATES!, and, hardest of all, each other.

This book has it all! Blondes, brunettes, and redheads! Indian, caucasian, and African American! The smart, the dumb, and the wild! A feminist and a hopeless romantic! A lesbian and a transgender!  A wacked politician (*cough* Sarah Palin *cough*) and an insane dictator (who is NOT reminiscent of Kim Jong Il in any way… *ahem*), AND PIRATES, YA’LL.

Extra Goodies:

  • I must remember to incorporate Brazilian waxing as a torture device in my next threat to a member of the male species. 
  • Hair remover = bomb. 

As we met the contestants when the novel first began, I didn’t know if I wanted to root for the girls’ survival or kill them out of mercy. However, the characters grew on me quickly as I learned more about them and their carefully guarded secrets. Every reader is sure to identify with at least one of the main characters who are all dealing with their own inner demons.

Beauty Queens has a little something for everyone: mystery, romance, betrayal, self discovery, questioning sexuality, AK 47’s, and hunky (but doofy) pirates. The phony pop culture references, fictional product placements, and one-liners are hysterical, yet it still has depth and an actual message (go figure!). Despite the quirkiness, it lets girls know that it’s ok to be confused in a world where they are bombarded with images telling them what they should be like. Throw in an Elvis-obsessed dictator, exploding beauty products, and some very strong willed young women and you’ve got the makings of a kick-butt “GIRLS RULE” novel. Campy, funny, and, in some spots, just downright weird, Beauty Queens is a page turner that I did not want to put down.

Unrelated: The shout out to David Levithan made me chuckle right out loud. I’m not sure if it was intended or not, but I think there was one to Scott Westerfeld in there as well.



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