Beauty Queens

From Amazon:

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, a desert island classic.

Survival. Of the fittest.

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 their state-appropriate costumes and compete 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.

Baer’s Commentary:

Something about this book called to me. The cover is not one I would normally be drawn towards and the description made it seem pretty trite, but I just felt I should read this. I was surprised at just how smart this book is! Yes- on the surface it is a story about beauty queens competing in the Teen Dream pageant. They are on their way to a tropical paradise to film a promotional video for the pageant when their plane crashes on a desert island. Only 13 contestants survive the crash, leaving them stranded with nothing but beauty products, evening gowns, and their skills for the talent portion. This leads to some comedic and ingenious scenes in which the queens get creative with their resources in an attempt to survive.

Underneath all of the superficial elements, though, is a story about feminism, empowerment, and girls finding their authentic selves. As their time on the island passes, the girls learn who they are when the pressures to be the “perfect” girl are gone. They also find their identities outside those seen through the male gaze, surprising both themselves and the others with their strengths. Bray addresses issues of rampant capitalism, political corruption, sexuality, gender roles, racial and cultural struggles, and toxic masculinity in an entertaining way that is easily accessible to teens.

This is not your typical feminist novel, and we are better for it. While the issue of toxic masculinity is addressed, not all of the boys and men in the story are a part of the problem, which is refreshing. Too often in feminist lit, the male characters are all “bad guys” in an attempt to show females as strong, but this can be problematic in that all men are then vilified. The boys in this novel, however, are well-rounded characters that exist as more than mere foils for the girls. While they do exist as another means for the girls to grow, the boys develop in surprising ways as well. This is a perfect novel for girls seeking feminist empowerment, but who aren’t prepared for the heaviness and maturity of books like Speak or The Nowhere Girls. Beauty Queens is a fun read with positive messages. I highly recommend it!

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