Fattie Book Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty QueensBook: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Rating: ♦♦♦♦◊

Synopsis Snippet: Teen Miss Dream girls crash-land on what they believe to be a deserted tropical island.  Together they deal with the horrors and wonders of the island and, when it becomes apparent that no one is coming to rescue them, make a great survival on their own.  BUT, the very same corporation which sponsored the pageant has its own shady dealings on the backside of the island; dealings in which the girls end up mixed up.

The Cast: Most diverse I’ve read.  All thin beauty queens but there is racial, gender and sexuality diversity which is really awesome but which, after a while, feels (unfortunately) almost forced at times.  But definitely have to give the author props for a cast that feels uniquely non-monolithic! I also have to say that the characterization who makes up the Evil Country Dictator is unfortunate.  But the lemur is awesome.

Romance Aspects: A good amount of swoon time (with Pirates even! Arg!) and not just cis-hetero man/woman.  There’s some woman/man, woman/woman romance and man/trans woman.

Language: Funny, irreverent, bit over-the-top in pushing particular messages at some points but overall quick to read.  There is no one “Main character” to follow though.

Fat treatment: There are only a few passing references to fatness but for the most part it is in reference to disdain for the Corporate America that tries to push unrealistic ideals on young women and people in general.  Actually refreshing messages. No fat characters though to enjoy.

Review: Mostly Brilliant and Fun.  A bit overly simplistic at times but the inclusion of so much diversity in race, personality, sexualities,  and characters really made this book a great read.  Plus, lots of awesome footnotes that ended up making me laugh out loud!  Also?  Lemurs!  Pirates!  Amusing “ads” from the Corporation that really lambaste current TV tropes.

It was a fast, funny, thoughtful, quirky and really insightful look at that long proposed idea: “A plane full of beauty queens crash lands on an island: GO!”  Imagine it as if a distinctly feminist Terry Pratchett were to write Lord of the Flies with an incredibly diverse cast of teen-aged pageant-ers, rather than a handful of school-aged boys.

Great Quotes: Some awesome tidbits that might get your curiosity going.

“ Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are”

“Breast in Show. Because “You’re prefect just the way you are” is what your guidance counselor says. And she’s an alcoholic.” (Fake Corporation TV Ad)

“This is going to make such a great story: How I nursed a pirate back to health and my love saved him,” Miss Ohio said with a contented sigh. “And then we can have our own reality show about our relationship.”

“You want to know what pain is? Try running out of Advil when you’ve got a Category Five period. I’ve had cramps that would make grown men beg for a bullet between the eyes.”

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed this novel.  It was entirely amusing, the footnotes added both insights into the “corporation” we’re reading about and the feminist slant we’re intended to take away, the characters are interesting.

The downside: a few times it almost felt like reading feminist propaganda with stereotypes of some diverse characters that really didn’t get much beyond skin-deep inclusion, as if the author wanted to HAVE diversity, but didn’t have time to devote to creating unique characters beyond “they aren’t a NEGATIVE stereotype”.  It feels like there is enough going on that pushing this one book into 2 books or even a trilogy would have given Libba Bray time to flesh out these characters and really make them relatable and fully realized.

Still, overall I’d recommend reading this as a seemingly light yet surprisingly deep-themed book with a shot at incorporating a diverse (if at times shallowly developed) set of characters that will really make you laugh out loud.  It was like reading a totally Valley Girl remake of Lord of the Flies.  A bit of deep thought and a lot of fun.

So, have you read this yet?  Would you now want to? Would you suggest it to someone else?

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2 thoughts on “Fattie Book Review: Beauty Queens

  1. You know what? I might just have to check this one out. Without having read this review, my immediate response would have been ‘Beauty queens stranded on an island? No power on earth could make me care!” But reading what you have to say about it, it sounds like a fun, light read that would probably amuse quite a bit.

    Besides: LEMURS!!!!

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