#CBR6 Review #116: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I normally don’t like to post my Goodreads blurbs onto my CBR reviews, but I really liked this one for Beauty Queens:

A recipe for Beauty Queens: Mix together two cups Swiftian satire, one teaspoon Lord of the Flies, two tablespoons beauty pageantry. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream together two sticks of feminism, softened, one teaspoon piracy, one tablespoon capitalist criticism, two cups of heart. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix until blended. Bake at 350 for 390 pages. Enjoy the eclectic dish that emerges.

Libba Bray throws in a lot of surreal elements to a simple premise: teen beauty queens stranded on an island after  plane crash. What emerges is a funny glimpse at feminism and dystopia in a young adult novel. 13 young women survive, including the cynical Adina, Texas teen queen Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, token black girl Nicole, lesbian Jennifer, deaf Sosie, and repressed Mary Lou. Secrets and discoveries emerge, but not all on the island is what it seems to be. What is the volcano, and why is it erupting? Is the island really deserted? And what about former beauty queen Ladybird Hope?

If you like strange and random images, then you will LOVE this novel. It’s funny and whipsmart, but you need to pay attention, because you might miss some minor clues. Of all the characters, Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins is perhaps the best. Portrayed as a vapid, conformist beauty queen, she slowly reveals an inner goddess that will not be swayed by poor living conditions or the threat of a cancelled beauty pageant. I enjoyed this novel a lot, though I think that more sophisticated teen readers and adults will glean more from it than younger readers.


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