Thursday, March 17, 2011

Book 5 of '11 Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Dust Jacket Description:

"The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again."

Characters: Anyone who has known me long enough will know that I love Libba Bray. But even I was a bit weary of the premise of Beauty Queens. Especially after reading the prologue and realizing it was third person, past tense, a medium Libba has only used in short stories. Starting the book, I immediately realized that it possessed brilliant social commentary. But I was afraid Libba would leave the beauty queens as two dimensional caricatures to make a point about society and the human condition.

Why did I ever doubt Libba for a second? Because Bray manages to pack more of a narrative punch into this borderline campy premise by creating realistic characters. In fact, I was amazed by how many issues Libba's characters' possessed, yet none of them seemed unrealistic or a vain attempt to relate to an audience the author knows nothing of. Each girl grew layers at a reasonable speed, revealing secrets to which everyone can relate. They evolved into real people who's problems struck to the core, even at times where the book was so outrageous that I knew only Libba Bray's brain could construct this.

The antagonists - while seemingly ridiculous - are so blatantly reminiscent of political and societal platforms and campaigns that they became haunting in their likeness to reality.

Libba creates another cast of varied, strong, hilarious and true characters in this story. I don't know how she does it, but she did it again. 5 flowers.

Writing: Libba utilizes a novel structure similar to the TV show Lost, where she delves into each beauty queen's life individually and equally. This is why the narrative thrives and Libba maintains her well woven story so well. The prose isn't as fluid and wordy as it usually is, but Libba does occasionally go back to her roots in depictions of the island. The dialogue is as real and hilarious as ever. Everything is spot on. 5 flowers.

Plot: It wasn't until about the third of the way through the book that I realized how Libba was forming the plot. It's hilarious, superbly crafted and incredibly enjoyable. Some parts may be predictable, but they were still compelling and fun. Libba made me think hard once again about issues like women's rights, authoritative power, sexuality and plenty of other things. Don't come into this book thinking it's either wholly fluffy or completely serious. Libba strikes the balance between the two perfectly. 5 flowers.

End: Did it surprise me? Not really. Did it tie the book together beautifully and make me grin? Absolutely. 5 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: How can you not love a description that uses the term 'non exfoliated darkness' and mentioned sexy pirates? Honestly. 5 flowers.

Cover: I'm still a bit iffy over the girl on the cover, but I love the arsenal of lip gloss and the Beauty Queens sash. 4 flowers.

Overall: Beauty Queens has an aura entirely different from either The Gemma Doyle Trilogy or Going Bovine. I love Libba even more than usual for her ability to always recreate herself while maintaining rock solid writing ability. Please, go out and read this. It's a fun book that makes you really think.

If you loved Going Bovine and enjoy reading about women's issues, give this one a go. I suspect you'll love it. 5 flowers.

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