Beauty Queens - Libba Bray I’m sure if you’re reading this review you already know the plot summary of this book so I’m not going to waste much time on that. Essentially, a plane full of 50 Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant winner hopefuls goes down on an island in the middle of nowhere and the surviving 15 or so girls have to either work together to survive or continue being each other’s competition. Many realizations and self-actualizations occur and some rainbow, feel-good sparkles may or may not rain down on their perfect bodies and now-enlightened minds. Okay, now onto how I felt about it.

The characters were all pretty stereotypical aside from a few exceptions where a certain characteristic would break the mold of what you expected that person to be a bit. Most of the transformations that all the surviving girls go through are pretty predictable and feel-good and in some cases funny (especially Taylor’s). They’re like a big bag of mixed candies. You’ve got a little of this, a little of that, all kinds of flavors, shapes, and colors. You know what to expect from each candy but you’re not going to reject them just because they’re predictable – they’re still yummy and fun. Weird metaphor, but hopefully you feel me. As far as the villains go, they reminded me of the bad guys from the Austin Powers movies, comical and just too ridiculous to take seriously. In my mind, Ken Jeong played MoMo B. ChaCha and Kristin Chenoweth played Ladybird Hope. They would be spectacular in a movie adaptation of this book (take note, Hollywood – it’s not like you’re going to come out with anything original this summer anyway!).

I did have a little trouble keeping up with some of the characters. Bray would switch back and forth between the girls’ names and the states they were representing (like on one page she’d call a girl Jennifer and on another she’d be Miss Michigan). So at times that was just a bit much for my pathetic memory and I’d just guess who she was referring to and hope I was right. So if you have a crap memory like me you might want to keep a list on hand of the girls and their states so you don’t get confused.

As far as the plot goes, you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the ride when things become a little too coincidental and convenient. For example, the island where the girls’ plane crashes is also the island where a ship full of hot young pirate actors wrecks and (wait, there’s more!) it’s also the location of The Corporation’s secret underground base for the production of weapons of mass destruction. So this island is like a magnet for all things hot and evil and drama-building. But if you can just look past that (along with lots of other unrealistic instances, like a skinny blond pageant girl breaking the neck of a full-grown military-trained man with her bare bronzed hands) you’ll be just fine. Just paste on a big, sparkly, gloss-slicked smile and enjoy. Because this is fun stuff.

I was expecting to be annoyed by the random interruptions with the commercials, ads, and footnotes. They bothered some other reviewers and sounded like they’d distract from the story, but I actually quite enjoyed them. They were funny, amusing satires of the trash that passes for TV these days (that makes me sound like an old lady but I swear I’m not) and the magazine ads that push unnecessary, expensive beauty products on impressionable, young, self-conscious girls.

I highly recommend this for all young/teenage girls (and adults who still like YA too!). It sends a good message and exposes the impact of pop culture and media that some girls might not even notice they’re giving into. This book encourages girls to be strong, be themselves, and be proud of who they are. Sure, things can get a bit cheesy at times (especially at the end), but I think that’s part of the joy of it. I’ve never read any Libba Bray before this, but I think she’s kind of making fun of herself and not taking anything too seriously while making fun of everything else (if that makes sense). I will definitely be checking out Bray’s other work.