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Beauty Queens Hardcover – May 24, 2011
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From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray comes 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 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.
Praise for Libba Bray
"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
Top customer reviews
What I found not necessary was the whole bad guy thing, I think this would have stood on it's own without the side story, but it wasn't detrimental enough to hurt the really great writing and underlying messages about what is sometimes expected of girls and what they can accomplish when those expectations are removed.
Screamingly funny and satirical, the modern cultural references may become dated but I loved the cut ins of the commercials, the corporation, and the references to pop culture all seen through a fun house mirror of exaggerations but with an underlying basis of truth.
As the girls evolve, devolve, and become themselves on the island, I was intrigued and carried along willingly on their journey. This is not my usual genre but I'm glad that I, too, went outside my box, and found an unexpected, enjoyable, and thought provoking gem.
I was laughing throughout. I looked back on my teen years and the girls I knew in high school.
I listened to it on audiobook and am so happy I did. It was better than if it had been on TV. I especially liked hearing the author discuss the book, as well as talk about life events leading to her career as an author.
The creativity and depth of this book blew me away in many ways. I'm not sure if the reviews below were by teen readers or adults like me. Regardless, I'm happy I didn't read any of them before I read the book.
I found myself laughing out loud at quite a few parts! I found this more light hearted than some of her other novels, and I don't think the style (obviously parodying beauty shows and having exaggerated - though still interesting - characters to get points across) will translate to everyone.
This novel was something that I could put down for a week before getting back to, as it slowed down at points, which I didn't mind but may bother some who like fast-paced action.
This novel probably isn't my favourite of hers, but I think her characterisation in this novel is some of the best she's done. This book would be especially perfect for a young teenage girl as it has so many awesome and empowering messages about women. There is also a lot of representation of race, gender and sexuality, with all of these characters getting a chance to share their point of view. This is maybe my favourite thing about this book.
Most recent customer reviews
*Sexual content warning*