Beauty Queens


Author: Libba Bray

Publication: 2012, Scholastic

Pages: 400

Overall Rating:

Rating for Action:

Quantity of Action:

Age Category: 13+

Brief Summary: Thirteen contestants in the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant are stranded on a remote island after their plane crashes into the ocean.  They’ve got almost no food or water, but worst of all, most all their makeup was lost in the crash!  Somehow, they’ve got to survive and stay fabulous while doing it.  Should they learn to start fires or spend time working on their runway skills?  And what happens when the sexy pirates show up, followed by scheming arms dealers, corporate heavies, and a megalomaniacal dictator?  It could be enough to ruin their perfect hair!

Age of Main Character: 16-18

What I Liked the Most: This is satire at its best.  It takes the whole notion of brainless beauty queens and turns it into a girl power manifesto that just so happens to also take dead aim at everything from corporate politics to crass commercialism and reality TV.  The wit is razor sharp and I can only assume Libba Bray had an absolute blast writing it.

If you get a chance, definitely check out the audio version of this one.  Bray narrated it herself and she seems to be a born voice actress as well as a writer.  The range of voices she employs is truly incredible, and you’ll find yourself chuckling every time the mad dictator, MoMo B. ChaCha, or former beauty queen and presidential hopeful, Ladybird Hope, open their mouths.

What I Liked the Least: Not much.  But you do need to go into this with the right attitude.  Remember, it’s satire – and progressive satire at that.  So if you’re not up for a bucket load of humorous pokes at abstinence only sex ed,  traditional gender roles, and homophobia  then keep your hands off this little gem and go read something by Sarah Palin instead.

How Good was the Action? Well, the action here isn’t real action.  It’s satirical action – a mad dash opportunity for some angry young women to get revenge on the dudes who done them wrong.  It’s quick and fun, with lots of verbal barbs, designed more to make you laugh or cringe than anything else.

How Engaging was the Story?  The cast of girls here is first rate.  We’ve got the gung ho, never say no pageant machine who learns there just might be more to life than winning, the typical dumb blonde who discovers she’s not so stupid after all, the win at all costs Indian beauty who discovers it just might be okay to be a valley girl DJ, and the hard ass feminist intent on blowing up the whole competition who realizes that there’s far more to her fellow contestants than she could ever have imagined.  And it’s all wrapped up in a package of razor sharp wit, interspersed with ads for over-the-top beauty products, fake news casts, and reality TV shows.  You won’t want to put this one down.  And when it’s done, you’ll find yourself wishing for more.

Profanity: Nothing too over the top, but the B word gets thrown around a fair bit.

Sex: Yeah.  And some of it gets fairly graphic.  Lots of kissing, touching breasts, talk of condoms.  And the pirate pecks are on major display.

Violence: Very little, and what’s there is all comical.

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