4 member(s) found this review helpful.
I loved Bray's Gemma Doyle series and enjoyed Going Bovine too. So I was super excited when I saw Bray was coming out with another bizarre book. I got an advanced reading copy of this book through Book It Forward ARC Tours. All in all this was a very fun read. It went a little over the top at points but for the most part was laugh out loud funny while touching on some serious issues that teen girls (and boys) face.
The story starts during the plane crash as the plane is plummeting towards a deserted island. The girls are forced to find a way to survive, and they will do it, but in their own way. One of the girls sees strange lights on the volcano on the island and then other strange things start happening. The girls find out that there may be more to this island than they originally thought; in fact maybe it is part of some super secret scheme of somebody to take over the world...or maybe not. They will brave snakes, broken nails, eat bugs, and build weapons out of beauty supplies...but the big question is will they survive?
When I started this book I wasn't sure what to make of it. Some of it is hilarious and some of it is way over-the-top (an example is the airplane tray stuck in one of the girl's heads). The text has footnotes scattered throughout the refer to various products/TV shows/etc. that are being promoted by the Corporation. The girls themselves are varied and, naturally, a bit stereotypical in cases. Bray did a very good job of giving most of the girls a good background and in-depth personalities, making them into more intricate characters than I originally thought possible. I was a bit worried that there were too many characters in this book to keep track of, but Bray did an excellent job of dealing with that.
The story was easy to follow and the plot ended up more complex than you originally think it is going to be. While the story is a bit over-the-top slap-stick in the beginning it does evolve into something more serious as the book goes on. Many of these girls have some issues (who wouldn't after being in the pageant circuit for years). All of the girls learn about themselves, grow as people, and are forced to face some of their fears as they eke out a survival on this island. Surprisingly, or maybe not, there ends up being a strong theme of girl-power. The girls learn to stand up for themselves, make out of life what they want to make out of it, and value each other for their different aspects of their personalities. There are a number of social issue touched on as well including gay rights, corporate responsibility, and ecological responsibility.
Of course that's not to say it ever gets too serious, there is humor throughout...much of it focused on mocking corporations and the gullibility of society. I laughed out loud numerous times, rolled my eyes a couple times, and actually found myself almost in tears as I approached the end of the book and released I wasn't going to get to read more about these interesting girls. So, although the book really started out crazy...in the end I was actually really attached to the characters and sad to see them go. The book itself wraps up nicely and hopefully; and was an all around good read.
There were a couple of small problems. In the beginning there are a lot of characters to keep track of, Bray did a good job dealing with this, but it was still a little confusing at points. As you got further into the book this wasn't a problem. The scenarios get a bit over the top at points and, as I said, there was some eye-rolling going on. Some of that could have been cut out and the book would have been even better. Most of the foot-notes are superfluous and were part of what made the book a bit too over-the top. This is definitely a book for older young adults; there is sex in here and it is vaguely explicit.
Overall an excellent read. Wonderful characters, a more intricate plot then you would expect, and lots of laughs. I became surprisingly attached to these characters and was sad to have the book end. There are some serious social issues addressed in this book and these are skillfully woven amongst all of the humor. This book was definitely more cohesive than Going Bovine and I liked it much better. I will definitely keep reading Bray. This book is recommended for older young adults who love humor, quirkiness, adventure, and survival stories.
2 member(s) found this review helpful.
BEAUTY QUEENS cements Libba Bray as the spokesperson of the level of intelligence that can be accomplished in YA literature. Regardless if humor and satire are not your thing, you should read BEAUTY QUEENS, for it comments on just about everything that is troubling about our society.
BEAUTY QUEENS features an ensemble cast, so we end up learning about a dozen or so girls and rooting for even those whom we thought were initially annoying or dumb. Bray works with a lot of hot topics in her book: feminism, beauty pageants, advertising, LGBT, and female sexuality, just to name a few. She skillfully weaves all these dozens of issues into the personalities and worries of the girls, so that while many of them have hilariously over-the-top dumb lines, we know that there is more meant than what is being said.
Some books have trouble even fully exploring just one topic, let alone several dozen. Frankly, I donít know how Libba does it, how she managed to keep track of all the characters and all the issues they deal with. Which is why BEAUTY QUEENS is clearly the work of a genius. While at times the ridiculousness of the girlsí predicament and what they encounter on the island (e.g., hallucinatory plants and an evil dictator whose talk reminded me of the Foosa leader from the movie Madagascar) made me shake my head in disbelief, I think everything works for the good of the main message: Libba Bray invites us to question what society tells us and what we typically blindly believe. Her over-the-top story forces us to confront our own passive acceptance of the way things are and encourages us to think for ourselves.
Itís hard to talk about the quality of characterization or pacing or world-building or any of those typical things one of my typical reviews would talk about. Thatís because Libba has got those writing essentials in spades, and then she kind of throws them all aside and takes a giant risk. Itís succeeded: BEAUTY QUEENS has escaped the usual limitations of literature, particularly YA fiction, and broken new ground. With this as the new standard of intelligence to match, YA should never be the same again.
2 member(s) found this review helpful.
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a little too much..., May 18, 2011
I eagerly anticipated this book after having read Going Bovine with my teen book club. Because I read that novel, I realized that Libba Bray could present some crazy scenarios and over-the-top characters. She certainly does it again with this maybe too clever satire on beauty queens, beauty pageants, and all the implements and "talents" a girl needs in order to become a Miss Teen Dream.
A plane carrying the 50 contestants for a beauty pageant crashes on a deserted island. The surviving girls must figure out how to feed and shelter themselves until they are rescued. Because they are competitive, a few girls vie for the leadership role; the winner of that vote decides that while they are busy trying to stay alive that they will also keep practicing for the pageant that each desperately wants to win.
MEANWHILE, on the other side of the island is a secret compound hidden inside a volcano. Some bad men are planning some shenanigans with a greedy dictator. AND, in other evolving events, a ship of pirates lands on the same island. Guess what -- they are all young men who are stars of a reality show. Sounds crazy, right? Well the story does get somewhat ridiculous at this point and I sort of lost my taste for the continual subtle and not so subtle attempts at humor though at times I did laugh out loud at a particularly funny or sarcastic bit of prose. The real problem I had with the book, however, was that the author chose to put in TOO MUCH of everything. The graphic descriptions of sexual encounters, drug use, gays, lesbians and transgender love affairs, etc. might be way too much for the young adult age group that would be drawn to this book. I would suggest that interested parents read this first before giving it to or buying it for a younger teen. I'm also not sure that all younger readers would "get" the inside jokes.
I enjoyed the book, but after awhile it just got to be tiresome and instead of the early entertaining biting sarcasm, satire, and wit, it was ultimately predictable and a bit of a let-down.