Beauty Queen by Libba Bray

[2014 Hub Reading Challenge, PPYA]

beautyThis was super popular when it came out, but for some reason I just passed it by. I knew the general premise–beauty queens crash land on an island, and I thought for some reason that it was maybe Lord of the Flies -ish? and I just wasn’t too interested.  But whatever, I’m super glad I read it now because I loved it. I had no idea of the funny, pointed angle this takes,with bizarre commercial interjections from “The Corporation” and the insane characters like MoMo B. ChaCha, who is clearly like Kim Jong Il, but even nuttier. The format reminded me of other books I’ve liked, though the only example I can think of is possibly Jennifer Government (and perhaps also the movie Tropic Thunder.) I ended up reading almost the entire thing in one day (at 11:55 I decided to save the remaining chapter and epilogue for the morning, having made it through the denouement.)  Consequently I feel like I totally book binged and am now groggy and need to run around a lot today.

Anyway, yes the book is about a planeful of Miss Teen Dream contestants (one from each state) who crash on a seemingly deserted tropical island.  It’s like the opening of Lost, what with charred bodies and wreckage, until Miss Texas rallies everyone in the perkiest way, demanding they retain their perfect pageant behavior.  The surviving contestants all turn out not to be what their appearances insist they are.  Each character gets her own focus throughout the book. The whole thing is very campy-secret plots, crazed dictators, hidden rooms in volcanoes, commercials for ridiculous beauty products-and thus, hilarious.  And there is pointed skewering of our culture.  But what I found so impressive is that beyond the camp the characters are great individuals and you can really care for them and root for them to find their true selves in this isolated spot.  I really, really enjoyed this and am glad the reading challenge was the bump I needed to check this out.



2 thoughts on “Beauty Queen by Libba Bray

  1. Thanks for the list of boarding school books. May I recommend a novel I wrote? Perhaps that’s self serving. Anyhow, the novel is “Saving Miss Oliver’s.” I wrote it out of my experience in a long career in private schools, including boarding schools. It was very popular among private school professionals. Here’s a brief summary:

    Miss Oliver’s School for Girls, a boarding school, beloved of its alumnae and students for empowering their lives, is under attack, and it is up to Rachel Bickham, the young African-American headmistress, to defend it, in her very first year.

    Rachel can be combative when her blood is up, and she’s not about to let the school, with its curriculum designed by women for the way women learn, be hurt by the right-wing talk show host who reveals a sex scandal involving one of the students. He’s proxy for every insult to women since time began, and she fights him with a daring strategy that puts her job on the line, and wins. But when she fails to confront the collapsed performance of the school’s most celebrated teacher, she learns that it is not the sensational problems, but the quiet ones at the core that threaten the most. Sincerely, Stephen Davenport 510 531 7901

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