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Beauty Queens Paperback – June 1, 2012
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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.
--This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
'Beauty Queens' is a madcap surrealist satire of the world in which her readers have come of age reality TV, corporate sponsorship, product placement, beauty obsession but ultimately, it's a story of empowering self-discovery.” New York Times Book Review
* Readers will come for the twisted fun and walk away with a whole banquet of questions.” Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review
* Whip-smart social commentary, surreal plot elements, and feminist themes come together in this bizarre and brilliant story . The empowering theme of self-acceptance and the affirming message that women should not underestimate themselves or others makes this novel a potentially life-changing book for budding feminists.” School Library Journal, starred review
Though the jokes fly thick as unplucked brows, Bray also goes deeper into each character to show how our culture's insidious focus on female perfection keeps girls from being who they are. Escaping civilizationthe best thing that could happen to a teenage girl? Sure looks that way.” Horn Book
Bray spins this hilarious romp into an examination of femininity and feminism, sex and sexuality.” Booklist
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Top Customer Reviews
‘Beauty Queens’ is unlike anything else I’ve read before, some parts, and bits of the dialogue were like eating glass because of the low-brow idiocy, and others shine with brilliant satire – though one would not work without the other… it’s campy & sarcastic. It’s also dramatic, enthusiastic, hyperactive, and flamboyant.
Following a collection of teenaged vapid beauty pageant contestants in a reality television show who survive their airplane crashing on a tropical island – some of the girls continue in pageant mode, while others break out of character and form survival skills on an unforgiving island.
Each character is unique and brings a lot to the table as far a diversity and comedy. Libba Bray includes a transsexual and lesbian character in her cast of unlikely marooned teens. Later, the addition of a group of boys – from a pirate television show, which is produced by the same team that mastheads the pageant: The Company.
It was a little difficult to get into at first because it has such a unique narrative style, after which I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek, over the top antics of ‘Beauty Queens.’ This is all about hi-jinx! Don’t expect anything serious from this novel, except for a big case of sparkly ponies, eye-rolling, and snorting.
We have ‘ads’ interspersed in between chapters as well, like a word from our sponsor – The Company (again) that added a fun touch.
At first I thought it was going to feel immature, like it was pitched to a young tween market, but then with some of the references and content, I discovered that it wasn’t taking itself seriously at all. It was like a drag queen had taken over the stage and was entertaining me with vicious quips, reading the audience, and strutting her stuff while downing a VB. It’s obtuse and entertaining
I may have rated it higher if it allowed me to connect with any of the characters, or had some realism in it to help me care. Instead it was like a really long episode of a teen SNL cast. And on a side note – there is a hilarious epilogue that is the icing on the cake.
I loved the funny, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But I am really looking forward to picking up another title by Libba Bray…
I'm generally not the biggest fan of satire since humor usually goes WAY over my head, but I really enjoyed this. I read it for the #ReadProud challenge for the Trans YA category not fully aware of how much more this book is than that. BEAUTY QUEENS was silly, lighthearted, and fun, that had a broad spectrum of representation from MTF models to lesbian relationships to confusion about identity in a tasteful way. The interludes with the advertisements were absolutely superb and had me in stitches. The silliness was over-the-top providing a very lighthearted read that was especially enjoyable for those who are fans of LORD OF THE FLIES.
So, why the 3 or 3.5 star?
If 1/3rd of the story was cut out, this would have been an excellent page-turner. The inclusion of the pirate boys could have been nixed without losing anything in this friendship story. The plot twists would have had a bit more punch. I found myself skimming through some parts of it that I'm certain I would have otherwise read more thoroughly if it was shorter.
Perhaps this isn't the case for other readers. I'd still recommend it.
While the characters were certainly well rounded and conceived fully, it was hard to keep track of them all. Each girl had her own distinct personality, but there were so many of them that by the end of the book, they had all melded together in my mind--I had a hard time remembering who was in love with whom, who didn't need a man, and who had the airplane tray sticking out of her head.
I'm giving this book 4 stars (I'd give it 3.5 if I could) because the story was hilarious and completely unrealistic, but I still loved it. Bray has proven herself a master of sarcasm and wit with this book. It was long--it took me about 3 weeks of reading ~30 a day to finish it, but I blame that more on my life than on Bray's writing style--I could've easily finished it in a weekend if I didn't have other things to do.
The rest of the comedy is about as unsubtle as it gets. There are parodies of the Kim dynasty in North Korea, and corporate excesses.If you like Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, or Tim Dorsey, you'll definitely enjoy the mix of mayhem and suspense in the plot.
There are positively portrayed lesbian, transgender, black, and Asian Indian characters, though they are not the leads.
There's a good deal of death, non-graphic violence and some non-explicit sex, but nothing beyond what most young adults have already seen or read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Look, I like campy over-the-top humor as much as anyone, and I absolutely loved how it all meshed...Read more