30 May 2011

Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray 
Also by author: Going Bovine; Gemma Doyle series
Description: From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island. Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Review: When I first saw Beauty Queens, without looking on Goodreads first, without reading the description, I just shrugged it off as a book about beauty pageant contestants who get trapped on an island and fight for survival. Maybe the big twist was it would be televised. And then I saw Beauty Queens in my local library, and I had to have it because A) It was a new release and B) I'm selfish and I need to read the new books before anyone else. *kayne shrug* I think Beauty Queens will be a book that'll last with me for  a long time.

Beauty Queens tells the tale of 13 Miss Teen Dreamers who survived a plane crash on a deserted island. In the beginning, it's like Lord of the Flies, plus dramatic girls and jokes about make-up and skin care. When the girls realize they won't be saved right away, they set about building huts, irrigation systems, and schedules to which the girls catch fish and make weapons. Meanwhile, some girls think they'll pick up right where they left off and still practice their pageant routines. Those like Taylor, Miss Texas, who lives and breathes pageants. She becomes the team leader, and later, goes a little stir crazy. 

I think, between all the characters, I really understood Taylor the most. She was introduced to the pageant scene at a young age, and always looked forward to the day she would be crowned Miss Teen Dream. Her resume was spotless, her dance routine perfect, and her wave and smile down to a T. However, this is Taylor's last year in the pageant scene. And she will not let a little misshape, like a plane crash on an island, stop her from winning. She always lived by the pageants rules, and here, on this island,she gets to be free. Be herself without the pageants always glaring eyes. I feel her ending was the most well-suited. It left me with a smile knowing she'd be fine, without the pageants.

Now, this book was more than just about girls in sashes and making quips about periods and Lady Stash'Off. It brought to the table the top of feminism and how men and the world treat ladies. From this book, everyone treated the Miss Teen Dreamers like shit. Like they were dumb, and should only be looked upon because of their beauty. I live in a close-knit Italian family, where the wife takes care of the home, food, husband, children before she goes out and makes a name for herself. So, I just assumed that I'd become like her, living with my husband and becoming a house-wife. Now, I'm not saying that before this book, I never knew that a woman could be independent, and live without a *gasp* man. No, obviously that would be an option for me. I just really liked the way Bray dealt with feminism and the beauty queens. How she wrote in adults who would talk down the the girls and assume they were harmless and couldn't fend for themselves, couldn't survive on their own on the island. It was really refreshing to read of a heroine who didn't need a man by her side. Adina, the girl who wanted to become a journalist, who didn't want a boyfriend, has become sorta a role model for me. She's the poster child for being yourself.

And there was this quote in the book that hit me hard:
"Why do girls always feel they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that? You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it's longer than three sentences or she's expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with, 'Sorry for the rant' or 'That may be dumb, but that's what I think.'"
That is the truest statement I have ever read. And I realized, I do this also. After giving a long speech or typing a lengthy paragraph, I'll state: Sorry that it's long :P. Who gives a shit if it's one sentence or three pages! It's my goddamn opinion, what should I be apologizing for!? We don't live in a place anymore where women have to keep their opinions to themselves, and can't speak freely. Why should I be ashamed of what I believe in?

On a lighter topic, I feel that the way this book was set-up was flawless. I really enjoyed the commercial breaks that introduced us to the Miss Teen Dreams world, where The Corporation (A business that owns everything) advertises it's hair lengthening shampoo, or Lady Stash 'Off, or cream that makes your skin lighter.(I'll go on a rant about that in a paragraph or two) It was kinda frightening to see that The Corporation believes if you're beautiful, primped and coiffed, you're one of us, but if not, you're not worthy. I also liked the 'Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts Page' that really taught us about the girls, and their feelings and attitudes. And the footnotes!? I love books with footnotes; I feel as though the author is writing them just for me, to understand the book, and her world, better. So thanks! :D

Okay, on the topic of the cream that makes your skin lighter: There were two girls of color in the book, Shanti and Nicole. And Shanti made a big point: The Corporation won't put two black girls into the semi-finals, so instead of being friends, they were each other's biggest competition. And Nicole's Mom basically made her ashamed of being black, and made her use the cream to lighten her skin, and maybe win. Really world? Really. That is disgusting! Young girls, (And older women alike) shouldn't be embarrassed of the way they look! And who in their right mind would sell a cream like that? And who would buy it?

Overall, I could go on for hours about Beauty Queens. Just please, pick it up sometime. It's an amazing book that runs deeper than just pageant contestants.

"I love myself. They make it so hard for us to love ourselves." Taylor stared off into the dark. Her face gleamed with tears. Snot ran over her lips. "The judges won't like that answer."
"Nobody's judging you."
Taylor choked on a sob. "Always," she whispered.
-Beauty Queens; Libba Bray

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting I'm about to read my first Libba Bray book "Going Bovine"- I just love her name it sounds like a really cool writer's name. So her new book sounds interesting I'll definitely give it a read.

    Charmaine Smith (More Information on Fly-In Alaska Fishing Trips Delux)