“It’s always darkest before the ultimate sparkle.” // Review of “Beauty Queens” by Libba Bray

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Audio Book Narrator:
Libba Bray
Genre:
YA/dystopia/satire
Date Read: 26/01/2017 – 08/02/2017
Rating: ★★★★☆

Review:

You’re going to have to forgive me if I gush a lot about this book. It was just so very clever. It’s quite a dark satire, which was right up my alley, and it touched on so many issues that affect teenager girls, while never straying from the larger plot.

In a slightly alternate America where nearly everything, including the Presidency, is a product of The CorporationTM, a plane carrying the 50 State Finalists of the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a tropical island, killing all but 12 of the Beauty Queens and all of their attendants. Now the girls have to survive not only what the jungle throws at them, but also a secret plot to use their deaths to start a war.

The thing about this book is that in the hands of many another author, it would have turned into one of those books where the girls all turn on each other in complete bitchiness. There is a little bit of bitchiness, but the girls rise above it, knowing that they need to survive. These girls are capable! And they learn huge amounts about themselves and each other while they do it all, including that sex is not a dirty word and that they can be more than just pretty. They all have their own reasons for joining the pageant, and these come out as the book goes on. The girls all have individual personalities, and I was really impressed with the way Bray handled a large ensemble cast without any of the characters falling into two-dimensions. That’s not to say they’re not stereotypical. They are, because the book addressing those stereotypes, but I came to sympathise with these girls anyway as I learnedtheir stories and watch them evolve.

The book also covers so many issues that teen girls have to face, including body image/positivity, , female sexuality, transexuality, racism, rape culture, the way women are expected to apologise for existing and a whole host of others that I am forgetting right now.

I admit that it did disappoint me a bit when a group of ridiculously attractive boys showed up to help save the day. For a book that was so much about female empowerment, having that did lessen the effect a bit. It’s not that boys aren’t allowed or anything, and their presence did serve as a vehicle to address some of the sexuality issues that the book was interested in, but it would have been nice for a book like this to have the girls save the day on their own.

I am often a bit wary when I see that an author is narrating their own book (a writer is not necessarily a performer) but Libba Bray’s narration is brilliant and I can’t recommend it enough. True, I did download the ebook in order to finish a bit quicker, but if you can find the time to listen to it, do!

Disclaimer: this book’s brand of humour will not be for everyone. I’m a very sarcastic, deadpan person, so the fact that so much of the satire was delivered in that form really appealed to me. Judging by other reviews, some people have found it completely over the top and unrealistic. And it is, to a point. The footnotes, “commerical breaks” and “words from your sponsor” (the Corporation) also make the format a unique one that won’t appeal to all readers. But I hope you won’t let all that put you off giving this book a chance.


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