Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

ImageThe Rundown:

I feel like I hardly know what to say about this one. It was fun and successful satire but it also felt too long and too slow. It’s good if you’re looking for something a little bit lighthearted, but don’t want to turn your brain off completely. I rate it 3.5/5 stars with points for creativity and humor in spite of an overly lengthy plot and unwieldy cast of characters.

The Background:

When the plane carrying 50 Miss Teen Dream contests crash lands on a desert island the surviving contestants band together to survive on an island that contains man-swallowing snakes, a shady government compound, hunky TV pirates, and–a pageant queen’s worst nightmare–no lip gloss.

It’s absolutely ridiculous as it’s meant to be. The story satirizes everything misogynistic about popular culture including the beauty industry, popular movie franchises, commercials,  television, and, of course, pageants themselves.

The Good:

There were a great many moments that were funny, especially in the footnotes. I was able to get attached to a few of the more major characters and really see them change their way of thinking. I loved the way it challenged romance in media as one character maintains her self respect through her short relationship and another pair acknowledges an amicable split and remains friends. Not everyone’s first love is their last in real life, after all.

It really is a feminist statement overall, and the cast includes all different types of women, stereotypical air-headed beauty queens, a stereotypical prickly feminist, a lesbian, a M-F trans woman, a bisexual. The journey they all take away from outside influence is really pretty compelling as well as entertaining.

The Bad:

I was bored a bit while reading. This isn’t an action novel, it’s not really a suspenseful survival tale either. I think the cast of major characters that we follow chapter by chapter could have been cut down, and the plot could have advanced more rapidly. It’s not a long book, but not a lot happens in the first 250 pages either. Sprinkled throughout are “commercial breaks” that I didn’t really advance the plot or add anything to the discussion of ideas already happening on the page. They weren’t funny enough on their own to be necessary. Overall there were just too many perspective changes and too much jumping around to keep me interested in any one scene.

The Wrap-Up:

This was so different from anything else I’ve read this year, so if you’re looking to laugh a little while breaking out of a reading rut, definitely give this a go. It’s a little slow, especially to start, but the ending is worth the struggle to get to it.


3 thoughts on “Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

  1. This kind of sounds like a Lord of the Flies Beauty Pageant. I’m assuming it doesn’t end in the same way though. Good review!

    ~ pdbkwm

    • I was expecting it to be that way, but there really isn’t a lot of conflict between the Beauty Queens themselves. There is some, but it’s not the main focus, and they definitely aren’t physically fighting each other. They cooperate pretty quickly and fairly well.

      Thanks for your comment, I’m glad you enjoyed the review!

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