“‘Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.'”
“Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray
Usually, I’m not a big reader of teen/young adult fiction. Every so often, a book of that genre would fall into my lap, and the results are typically nothing notable. However, if Beauty Queens is a good indication of what’s being done with a lot of teen/young adult fiction, then, clearly, I need to be reading a lot more of it. And possibly writing it, too. Picked up by my roommate because a friend of ours plays Petra West over at Fandom High, this is a fun, humorous book with a great underlying message that I hope a lot of teens are picking up and can appreciate as much as I do.
Described by me to someone else as “Lord of the Flies meets James Bond meets Girl Power,” Beauty Queens is the tale of the surviving participants of the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant when their plane crashes on what they think is a deserted tropical island in the middle of no where. Not only must these pageant girls learn how to survive, but they also want to keep their mani-pedis in top condition. On the surface, it’s a cute joke with a lot of humor about being girly and what not, but there lies a deeper message about accepting who you are, being yourself, and kicking ass while you do it. The girls manage to uncover a lot about accepting themselves while uncovering sexy pirates and a horrible government plot to murder them all. These beauty queens fight for survival and their lives, and are absolutely fabulous while doing so.
It’s the message of acceptance and being who you are and the pitch-perfect criticism of our culture’s materialism and concepts of feminitity that prevent Beauty Queens from being fairly one-dimensional and contrite. Libba Bray (whose name always just makes me think ‘library’) does a good job of balancing out her characters, who have the potential to be stereotypes or one-sided, by giving them flaws as well as good traits, and making them likeable despite their flaws. Even my slight irritation about a book championing being yourself and an individual, and yet still having a quartet of contestants known through the book by their States and not their names like the other girls, was explained in a satisfying (and really amusing!) way. I love the diversity of the book, too, and it’s attempt to tackle a whole trove of issues that many teen girls (and some older ones!) can relate to and find comfort in. It’s a grab-bag of personalities and important topics, embraced in a frank and loving fashion that almost makes me reconsider my stance on teen lit. Bray tackles sexuality and profanity in a way that I had always assumed was frowned upon in teen lit, and yet it’s still published by Scholastic. So, while the book itself might inspire teen girls to be themselves and celebrate what makes them unique in a world that’s trying to convince them to fit a certain mold, it inspired this “slightly” older-than-teen author to embrace the idea that she should be herself and celebrate what she thinks makes good teen lit and try to write it herself, sexuality, profanity, and other perhaps frowned-upon issues notwithstanding.
Books read: 3/100.
In addition to today’s book review, I also have two other things I’d like to note. First off, the usual thanks for a new subscriber! Thanks for hopping aboard, everyone at The Coevas Official! Great to have you following the blog! And, secondly, I’ve finally gone ahead and put up a Featured Story page. I haven’t decided how often I’ll change the story, but currently, I have a piece I wrote in college that I’m considering for Bowlful of Bunnies entitled “The Truth and Lies of a Body in the Snow.” If you have some constructive criticism or just some thoughts to share on it, I’d love to hear ’em! If you check out the story, I hope you enjoy it and keep an eye out for new ones to show up after a while, too!