Beauty Queens

Remember when you had to read Lord of the Flies for English class in high school? Try to remember that book to the best of your ability, but substitute prepubescent boys with teenage girls (beauty pageant contestants, to be specific) and speed the setting up to 2000something, and you’ve got Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens.

The novel is without a doubt a satire, and Libba (what a British name, huh?) without a doubt had a grand old time writing it. One wonders if she was under the influence of something wonderful while doing so. A plane containing all 50 contestants of the national Miss Teen Dream pageant has crashed on a “remote” island, and only about half have survived. One girl comes out as the obvious intelligent rebel who never wanted to do the pageant in the first place while another comes out as the obvious shallow and superficial leader who would rather practice dance routines than search for food, and the other 20 or so live up to many other teen girl stereotypes: The Slut, The Nerd, The Ethnic One, The Lesbian, etc. The girls spend the next few weeks trying to survive while also trying to find help while also trying not to kill one another because one another is being super-duper annoying while also sort of realizing they don’t really want to be Miss Teen Dreams after all while also lusting after the sexy boy pirates who come ashore.

The truly amusing parts of all this silliness is The Corporation, who sponsors the pageant and **SPOILER ALERT** is actually responsible for the crash, and Momo B. ChaCha, a horrible dictator of a horrible country (subliminal messages, anyone?) with whom The Corporation is devising a very devious plan. On every page there are footnotes and fake ads for products The Corporation makes/sells, and they are pretty hilarious. After you (quickly) read this book, pick up the nearest magazine or turn on the TV and you will notice a few new things about the way things are worded/advertised. The not so amusing parts of all this silliness is, at times, the silliness — half of the girls died and they are hardly mentioned/mourned! One (not dead) girl supposedly had an airplane seat-back tray stuck in her head the whole time — yeah, right!

So I think Libba’s other books — the Gemma Doyle trilogy — are much more enjoyable and suspenseful, albeit far below my reading level, but this is definitely a fun, light read and a solid satire. Next up: some friends have finally convinced me to jump on the Jodi Picoult bandwagon with The Pact, but, as always, I remain skeptical. Stay tuned.

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