Friday, February 15, 2013

Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I purchased the audiobook on CD secondhand from the Barnes & Noble marketplace.

My review:

A plane full of teenage beauty pageant contestants crashes on a tropical island and the 14 remaining girls have to figure out how to survive. From that summary, you'd think it would be like The Lord of the Flies meets Mean Girls, but that's not how stuff goes down. Beauty Queens reminded me a lot of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, actually. It's social satire and a lot of it is laugh-out-loud funny.

It's also Hitchhiker's combined with a lot of PC girl-power stuff. I was a Girl Scout in the 1990s, so I've had a lifetime's quota of that already. I was also annoyed by the way Sarah Palin is ridiculed. Most of the other characters or entities were either mashups or stereotypes, which was fine. But one character is a blatant stand-in for Palin (especially as voiced in the audio recording), and that irritated me. It takes what is otherwise really smart, generalized social satire and makes it more of a personal attack than I cared for.

Most of the girls themselves are walking stereotypes who learn the expected, politically-correct lessons from their adventures. We get schooled on the "proper" approaches to: lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, safe sex, sex ed, abstinence, race, disabilities, and breakups. The individual story arcs are predictable (well, with a couple of exceptions!), but the overall story line has some fun surprises and, like I said, the writing is smart and funny. So even with the didactic passages, it's a fun read/listen that should appeal to teen girls and grown women alike.

Stars: 3

Runability: 4

I am not a YA fangirl. I usually find myself rating YA titles a little lower than other readers do; I just tend to prefer books that were written for adults. But I did enjoy this book and the fact that it is about a bunch of teenage girls didn't grate on me. Even if you don't typically read much YA, consider giving this one a shot. It's light and fluffy and ridiculous, but there is depth.

Libba Bray reads the audio version and she is a fantastic voice actor. I highly recommend listening to this one as opposed to reading it if you have the option.

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