Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

9464733The premise to Beauty Queens sounded right up my alley. A bunch of teenage beauty queens crash land on a deserted island (or is it?) and have to use their wits to survive. Snarkiness, mayhem, and catfights promised to reign supreme. I could not wait to dive in.

And at first I wanted to throw the book out the window similar to Pat’s episode with Hemingway in Silver Linings Playbook. The girls were one beauty queen stereotype after the next and so incredibly over-the-top with their girly campy-ness. I couldn’t find a single character worth my while and rolled my eyes so many times I got a headache. The only thing that truly kept me reading was Bray’s narrative creativity. The story is told via traditional narrative, commercial breaks, contestant questionnaires, and other random interludes that were a complete pleasure in this satire.

Somewhere around page 100 or so, something magical happened and I started to adore Bray’s every word. The girls began showing honest character development, they were managing to survive and prosper brilliantly, and all of my judgement was thrown back in my face. I realized guiltily how complicit I had been in my own prejudice and preconceived notions about pageant contestants and teenage girls in general. I see what you did there, Ms. Bray, and I loved it!

All of the girls were amazing and I loved each of them individually by the novel’s end. They represented and dealt with an entire range of complex issues such as body image, sexuality, and self-identity. Miss Texas was particularly amazing. I loathed her at the beginning more than any other and she ended up my absolute favorite character. The girls were fierce, strong, capable, and the fact that they loved nail polish and shiny dresses couldn’t (and shouldn’t) lessen their courage and poise.

The best YA I’ve read all year.

Bonus:

There are pirates…ARRRGG!!

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