The TFT’s Foray into YA: A Review of Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens
From the editor: Young adult literature. A lot of adults are reading it. A lot of adults are writing it. But not a lot of adults are reviewing it for other adults – if an adult wants to find out about a YA novel they have to read something ridiculous like School Library Journal or actually talk to a young adult, an experience that can definitely be less satisfying than reading a book intended for them and possibly more difficult–what teenager wants talk to an old nerd? Isn’t it enough that they have to compete with us for dressing rooms at Forever 21?
In the interest of sparing you these indignities, The Faster Times has decided to reivew worthy YA books. Here is our first, a review of the sexily covered Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
What would happen if The Lord of the Flies boys had been girls? Or not just any girls, but beauty pageant contestants? That’s what Libba Bray asks when she dumps a plane load of contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant on a deserted island in her latest YA novel, Beauty Queens.
Miss Team Dream is more than a beauty pageant. It’s part of a global conspiracy set out by The Corporation to convince girls there’s nothing wrong with them that can’t be fixed with a little make-up and wax. Interspersed through the girl struggles on the Island are commercials for such beauty products such as Lady ‘Stache Off.
The commercials are one of the highlights of the book, from the truthful skits about home beautification to plugs for the latest teen drama- “Watch the show critics say, ‘makes American history totally hot.’” However, it quickly becomes obvious that The Corporation, lead by former beauty queen Ladybird Hope, has plans even more sinister then convincing pre-teens to cover themselves with bleach.
What makes this book a great YA read is the variety of ratable characters that come into their own as they spend more time on the island. There’s Taylor, the elected leader of the island who insists the girls continue practicing their pageant skills while they wait for rescue. Sosie’s deaf and sick of people expecting her to be chipper and upbeat all the time in spite of her disability. There’s Shanti, the girl with an extra-curricular list a mile long, Nicole, who’s tired of people seeing her race instead of her personality, Tiera, the sweet air-head, Mary Lou, who clings to her promise ring to keep herself from giving into her most guarded desires, Jennifer, who entered the pageant circuit through a new program for juvenile delinquents and falls pretty hard for Sosie, Adina, an investigative journalist out to expose the pageant for the shallow competition is, and Petra, who has a huge secret she can’t keep from the other girls for long.
With such a large group of characters it would be easy for some of them to end up one-dimensional or over looked, but each girl gets a well rounded back-story, hopes, dreams, and even an Animal House style epilogue. The longer the girls are on the island the more resourceful they become building shelter, finding food, cutting themselves out of the bellies of snakes, and eventually thwarting a a weapons deal with an evil dictator.
Fans of lovestruck YA protagonists won’t be disappointed as quite a few love interest for the girls wash up on shore including the cast of Captains Bodacious, providing both swoon worthy soul mates and jerks to remind the girls (and readers) not to believe every line offered by a hot guy.
Part Mission Impossible with lip gloss part contemporary YA slumber party, Beauty Queens offers social commentary on the pressures on teen girls to be pretty and polished at all times without being preachy or losing its sense of humor.
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