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Beauty Queens Hardcover – May 24, 2011
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From Robin to the Joker, this compact, informative collection is your guide into over 75 years of the Dark Knight's friends and foes. Hardcover
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Teen beauty queens. A Lost-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. 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.
A Q&A between Author Libba Bray and… Libba Bray
Q: Hi Libba. I understand that today I have the opportunity to interview you. Er, me. Us?
A: Will this be on the test?
Q: God, I hope not. How about I’ll be “Q” and you’ll be “A.”
A: Sure. Figures you’d get to be the exotic, Scrabble-tastic letter. Mom always liked you best.
Q: So your new book, Beauty Queens, is about a planeload of teen beauty queens who crash on a “deserted” island, which turns out to be the location of a rogue operation running a super-secret arms deal. Hijinks ensue.
A: Wow, that’s exactly what I would’ve said.
Q: Admit it: This was your chance to scratch your James Bond itch.
A: Well, you may only live twice, but I’ve seen all the Bond movies about a dozen times. I like it when things blow up. If they can blow up with sequins, so much the better.
Q: The book satirizes consumer culture, reality TV, politics, rom-coms, the beauty industry, and religion while exploring issues of gender, race, sexuality, beauty, and identity.
A: And things go ‘splodey. Don’t forget.
Q: And things go ‘splodey. In more ways than one. What was the inspiration for this book?
A: I signed a contract, for starters. The less prosaic answer is that years ago over lunch, my editor David Levithan said, “A colleague and I came up with an idea and you have to write it: A plane carrying teen beauty pageant survivors crashes on an island. And…scene!” I thought it sounded like great, campy fun—a chance for a feminist take on Lord of the Flies. The intervening years have seen some pretty profound and depressing setbacks for women, not just legislatively but in entertainment, too. We went from “Norma Rae” and “Mary Tyler Moore” to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” and “Bride Wars.” I was at the store, and even the product names suggested we were broken in some way—“repair” “correct” “age defying.” I think there was one product targeted for men and it had some really straightforward name like “Moisturizing Lotion. For Men.” No judgment just, “Oh, hey, you have dry skin? Here’s a product to help with that, dude.” The end.
Anyway, I kept coming back to Lord of the Flies. Golding paints a pretty grim picture of humanity. Without the trappings of civilization, the boys devolve into savagery. But for the girls in Beauty Queens, it’s almost the opposite: Without the expectations & pressures of civilization, they have the freedom to be themselves—or at least to start figuring out who they might be. Mint?Q: Thank you.
A: You’re welcome. This is so Meta, isn’t it? Seems like James Franco should be here.
Q: I’m starting to understand what people mean when they say you’re odd and a little annoying.
A: Harsh. I don’t treat you this way. Remember, I’m a delicate flower. You know, like the Venus Flytrap. Or Audrey II.
Q: Moving on. I know you like to create a playlist for everything you write. What was on this one?
A: Oh. You know. (knowing wink)
Q: Er, yes. I do. But maybe other people would like to know.
A: Oh. Sure. No problem. There were thirty-six songs, including: Beauty Queen/Roxy Music, Mystery Girl/The Yeah YeahYeahs, Guyana Punch/The Judys, Paper Planes/M.I.A., Diamonds Are Forever/Shirley Bassey, Porpoise Song (Theme from “Head”)/The Monkees, Teenage Dream/T-Rex. And of course, Ladybird by Nancy Sinatra in honor of Ladybird Hope, one of the many characters readers will meet in Beauty Queens.
Q: Speaking of Ladybird Hope, presidential hopeful and the most famous Miss Teen Dream who ever lived, author of Get Scared, America!—any truth to the rumor that she bears a passing resemblance to a certain former governor from Alaska?
A: Sorry, I can’t answer that. I just put food in my mouth.
Q: But… you’re typing these answers.
Q: Hoo-kay…there are commercials for TV shows in the book, like “Pirates Bodacious IV: Badder and More Bodaciouser”, and products like Lady ‘Stache Off and Maxi-Pad Pets, the revolutionary fashion maxi-pad that makes you feel like you’ve got a special friend in your pants. Were you drawing on your former life as an advertising copywriter?
A: No. I just really like writing about maxi-pads.
Q: You also recorded the audio book for this one. Was that a fun experience?
A: Very much so. I’m indebted to the amazing team of director Bob Deyan, producer Paul Gagne, and engineer Mark Ahronson, who really led the way. In the booth, I discovered that my New Zealand accent stinks, my English accent isn’t any better, and by hour eight or nine, even my American accent wasn’t too keen. Also, in the future, I will only be writing three-word sentences. I’m sorry.
Q: Miss Texas plays a prominent role in the book. And you’re originally from Texas. What is it about Texas and beauty queens?
A: I’m from the hometown of two former Miss Americas. Gotta say, I’ve got a soft spot for women who can twirl flaming batons to “Cotton-Eyed Joe” while wearing non-flame-retardant sequined leotards. It’s our version of Fight Club. We also have the highest number of state executions. I’m sure those two facts aren’t related, though.
Q: Okay, I’m cutting you off. One last question: What’s the single best thing you’ve ever read about your writing?
A: After The Sweet Far Thing (the third book in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy) came out, a very sad reader wrote to voice her opposition to a choice I made near the end of the novel. “I know why you did it. You are an eco-friendly fembot who survives on the tears of teen girls. With the tears I have shed, you will live forever.” I swear I wanted to cross-stitch that on a pillow. It’s awesome.
Q: Thanks for talking with me today, Libba. (Me? Us? Oh, I’m so confused…) Anything else you want people to know about Beauty Queens before we go?
A: Yes. It will soften your skin while you sleep!
Q: That’s a lie.
A: Fiction is made of lies. And pretty fonts.
Q: Say goodbye, Libba.
A: I just did. Whoa. This is doing my head in.
"Libba Bray not only breaks the mold... she smashes it and grinds the tiny pieces into the sidewalk. For the record, I'd go anywhere she wanted to take me." ―The New York Times Book Review
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More About the Author
"I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already."-Libba Bray
Libba Bray is the author of the acclaimed A Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What is it about writing an author bio that gives me that deer-in-headlights feeling? It's not exactly like I'm going to say "I was born in Alabama..." and somebody's going to jump up and snarl, "Oh yeah? Prove it!" At least I hope not.
I think what gets me feeling itchy is all that emphasis on the facts of a life, while all the juicy, relevant, human oddity stuff gets left on the cutting room floor. I could tell you the facts-I lived in Texas for most of my life; I live in New York City with my husband and five-year-old son now; I have freckles and a lopsided smile; I'm allergic to penicillin.
But that doesn't really give you much insight into me. That doesn't tell you that I stuck a bead up my nose while watching TV when I was four and thought I'd have to go to the ER and have it cut out. Or that I once sang a punk version of "Que Sera Sera" onstage in New York City. Or that I made everyone call me "Bert" in ninth grade for no reason that I can think of. See what I mean?
God is in the details. So with that in mind, here is my bio. Sort of.
TWENTY-ONE THINGS YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT ME
by Libba Bray
1. I lived in Texas until I was 26 years old, then I moved to New York City with $600.00 in my shoe ('cause muggers won't take it out of your shoe, y'know . . . riiiiight . . .) and a punchbowl (my grandmother's gift) under my arm. I ended up using the punchbowl box as an end table for two years.
2. My dad was a Presbyterian minister. Yes, I am one of those dreaded P.K.s-Preacher's Kids. Be afraid. Be very afraid . . .
3. The first story I ever wrote, in Mrs. McBee's 6th grade English class, was about a girl whose family is kidnapped and held hostage by a murderous lot of bank robbers who intend to kill the whole family-including the dog-until the 12-year-old heroine foils the plot and saves the day. It included colored pencil illustrations of manly-looking, bearded criminals smoking, and, oblivious to the fact that The Beatles had already sort of laid claim to the title, I called my novel, HELP. My mom still has a copy. And when I do something she doesn't like, she threatens to find it.
4. My favorite word is "redemption." I like both its meaning and the sound. My least favorite word is "maybe." "Maybe" is almost always a "no" drawn out in cruel fashion.
5. My three worst habits are overeating, self-doubt, and the frequent use of the "f" word.
6. The three things I like best about myself are my sense of humor, my ability to listen, and my imagination.
7. I have an artificial left eye. I lost my real eye in a car accident when I was eighteen. In fact, I had to have my entire face rebuilt because I smashed it up pretty good. It took six years and thirteen surgeries. However, I did have the pleasure of freezing a plastic eyeball in an ice cube, putting it in a friend's drink, ("Eyeball in your highball?") and watching him freak completely. Okay, so maybe that's not going down on my good karma record. But it sure was fun.
8. In 7th grade, my three best friends and I dressed up as KISS and walked around our neighborhood on Halloween. Man, we were such dorks.
9. I once spent New Year's Eve in a wetsuit. I'd gone to the party in a black dress that was a little too tight (too many holiday cookies) and when I went to sit down, the dress ripped up the back completely. Can we all say, mortified? The problem was, my friends were moving out of their house-everything was packed and on a truck-and there was nothing I could put on . . . but a wetsuit that they still had tacked to the wall. I spent the rest of the party maneuvering through throngs of people feeling like a giant squid.
10. I got married in Florence, Italy. My husband and I were in love but totally broke, so we eloped and got married in Italy, where he was going on a business trip. We had to pull a guy off the street to be our witness. It was incredibly romantic. Florence is still one of my favorite cities in the world.
11. I often write in longhand and type it into the computer later, editing as I go. Sitting in my favorite coffeehouse with a new notebook and a hot cup of java is my idea of heaven.
12. I'm related to Davy Crockett on my mom's side. Honest.
13. I grew up doing theatre and spent a long time as a playwright. I still think very visually when I write.
14. Some of my favorite movies of all time (subject to change when I think of other movies I love) are All About Eve, Brazil, Blade Runner, Spinal Tap, Citizen Kane, Harold & Maude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Singin' in the Rain, and probably a million more that I can't think of right now. I have never made it through The Wizard of Oz without crying. Not once.
15. Naming my favorite books feels like naming a favorite child-impossible. But here's my list of some Y.A. books I love as of 4:03pm today. Tithe by Holly Black. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher. Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (not really Y.A. but I read it when I was 16 and it rocked my world). Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Here's what's on my nightstand to read: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. Acceleration by Graham McNamee. The Literary Opus of Daniel Elam by Daniel Elam. By the Time You Finish this Book You Might Be Dead by Aaron Zimmerman.
16. I love to be scared. Not "hey, I think I smell smoke . . ." scared, but creepy, paranoid, what's-that-out-there-in-the-dark, ghost story scared. It's no surprise that I was the girl who got invited to the slumber parties because I could be counted on to tell a tale to scare the bejesus out of you.
17. In homage to a book I just read entitled, FIVE MEN WHO BROKE MY HEART, I submit: The first boy who broke my heart (age 6) didn't want to sit next to me because I'd wet my pants in reading circle once and he thought I was gross. Damn my small bladder! The second boy who broke my heart (age 16) was a drummer with a band (the start of a trend, folks...) and he threw me over for a really cool chick I couldn't even bring myself to hate. The third boy who broke my heart (ages 20--24, ay yi yi . . .) was a strapping hunk of bodaciousness with the mind of Einstein. We had the exact same birthday, same year and everything. So the time he forgot to wish me a happy birthday was kind of the beginning of the end, I think. The fourth boy who broke my heart (age 25) was also a drummer. I had to stop with the drummers. The fifth boy . . . well, I married him, and if he breaks my heart, I'm going to burn all his favorite, rare import punk vinyl in the middle of the living room, so he's been warned.
18. I'm one of those people who has to write. If I don't write, I feel itchy and depressed and cranky. So everybody's glad when I write and stop complaining already.
19. My Pennsylvania Dutch great-great-great grandmother was supposedly a psychic who could see and speak to the dead. Sort of a witch, I guess. Her husband was an undertaker, and she would have these visions of someone bringing in a string of a particular size (people were measured for their coffins in this way) and it would come true. Creepy stuff, but fascinating.
20. If I were stuck on a deserted island, the five indispensable CDs I'd take would be London Calling by the Clash, Quadrophenia by The Who, Aretha Franklin's Greatest Hits, To Venus and Back by Tori Amos, and Elvis Costello's Greatest Hits.
21. I hate doughnuts. Weird but true.
Top Customer Reviews
At first some of the girls might come off as shallow and not worth the time to even read Beauty Queens, but soon enough the reader learns that these girls are not what they seem. In fact, most of them (with the exception of Taylor) have bigger dreams than winning some stupid teenage pageant. Now forced to make decisions on their own, the Teen Dream contestants begin to explore friendship, sexuality, and what it really means to be beautiful.Read more ›
Take pure silly fun, mix in some witty satire, and wrap it all up in a sparkly tiara and you have Libba Bray's "Beauty Queens". This book is over the top, crazy and absolutely priceless. I enjoyed every minute and found myself laughing out loud (which I rarely do) throughout.
It's the story of a group of competitive girls, stranded on a remote island, forced to figure out how to survive. They were vying for the Teen Dream crown, but now it's for their lives. Meanwhile, there is something fishy going on. One of the girls spots lights coming from the other side of the island and also - why hasn't anyone rescued them yet? In this world, things are run by "The Corporation" from what you watch on TV to what detergent you buy. Scattered throughout the book are little ads, interviews, and other randomness related to "The Corporation" and its products. How is "The Corporation" involved and can the girls survive without hot boys, lip gloss and flat irons? Well, you'll just have to read to find out.
Before I go on, I have a confession to make. I'm a former teen pageant girl. I was Miss Wisconsin Teen America for two consecutive Miss Teen America pageants. Yeah, I'm that cool. So, this book connected with me. It reminded me of the adventures I went through as a teen. I never really went any further with pageantry, but I went to a lot of them during "my reign". Libba Bray's characters did remind me of some of the interesting people I met during my pageant days. Though most of the girls I met were incredibly sweet and intelligent young ladies (and are still my friends today!), I met my fair share of characters too. Ahh.. the good ol' days.
Libba Bray's word play is brilliant. She plays it overly sweet with a bitter aftertaste.Read more ›
I expected a funny read and Beauty Queens did not disappoint. The humor was the kind that you don't exactly laugh, but kind of smirk to. It wasn't exactly the back-biting digs I expected from beauty queens, but a more subtle approach of letting the characters speak for themselves and allowing you to be the one to mock them (in your head, of course).
What truly blew me away was something I never saw coming - the fact that Beauty Queens is a novel stuffed with social issues. Social issues novels tend to be downers, and Beauty Queens is definitely not - even given the subject matter. The girls are messed up. Not from the crash, but from life in general. They're all competing for their own reasons, and the revelation of some of the motivating factors are pretty shocking. More than that, there is a strong female empowerment message here. Once the girls really start connecting and opening up to each other, they realize their sick of being "good" girls. They don't necessarily want to be bad girls, but they want the freedom to be themselves. As the girls come to terms with what that means, readers will likely be caught up in the idea right along with them. I'm a grown adult and this book had me wanting to stop behaving as I'm expected to. It was inspiring without ever seeming as though it was trying to be anything other than entertaining.
You'll find something unexpected in every page of Beauty Queens. It's chick lit, social issues, humor, action, adventure, survival, and body glitter packed into 400 pages of awesome.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
One of the best feminist YA books I have ever read. I can't recommend this book enough.Published 12 days ago by Barbara Kate Berger
After their plane crashes, thirteen beauty queens are stuck on an island. They start off panicked and mostly still pageant-centered, as many of the girls have dedicated their... Read morePublished 24 days ago by Katie
What started as a great premise ended up being a big waste of time. I did slog through to the end, because I felt that I should give it a try. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kahikina
The book was really fun. The story is something you don't have to think about. I would recommend this to anyone who is look ing for a fun,thrilling, hilarious,and heartfelt book... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Liberty Greer
Started out funny, was even reading it to my husband in the car on the way home. But got irritating fast. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Shen
Black comedy about teenage beauty pageant contestants stranded on a desert island. One must willingly suspend one’s skepticism as the novel progresses. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Charlie B.
This book came in a reasonable time (definitely faster than I thought) I was laughing, crying and thinking all throughout this book. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
I laughed so much while reading this. It started as almost a tale of cliche characters but the twist midway changes everything. There's humor, absurdism and satire. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Jim