Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner. 

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program - or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan - or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up? 

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness.

This story is a satire about the superficiality of consumer culture, politics, and mega-corporations that control everything we watch, read, and buy. It deals with racism, disability, and sexuality. There is adventure, mystery, and a dollop of romance. There are important messages here about survival, friendship, beauty, acceptance, independence, and what it means to be a woman. - excerpt from Nancy's review on Goodreads

I grew tired of this silly female tale, there was too much conversation concerning makeup and pedicures, products and dresses and the ridiculous rules or what girls are supposed to be.  What really bothered me that all this is going on while the text this story showed that they were actually incredibly smart girls who were able to invent things, use advances science and geography skills. I know that was part of the satire and part of the lesson of this novel -  to show that despite being the beauty queens with obsessive concerns over outward appearances, that they were more than that to begin with.  But it dragged on for so-o-o long.   I was just waiting for this book to hurry up and get on with it already! They did intersperse amongst the super girly prattle, almost hiding it, plotlines showing how these girls were smart AND capable AND independent. Again,  I get that it was part of the style of this story .  They were continuing to evolve and learn, even beginning to see each other as being capable of more than waving in a pageant parade or talent competition.  They were starting to understand that there was more to living than just being pretty;  they were starting to acknowledge this even in each other. It was still beyond annoying to have to read it page after page after page.

Another really annoying thing - which I suppose could have been a cute little quirk of the book to other readers- was the number of footnotes, references to television shows, and products and advertisements.  I get what the author was going four and it's a great idea. It just didn't translate well for me.  The presence of the notes at end of the page broke up the story.  I would have this great flow going, reading along and then BAM! stop. backtrack. look up the footnote. where was I..oh yeah, back to the story. I much preferred the character forms that peppered the book.  Giving information on the contestants, thoughts, dreams and showing how those ideas were often edited by the Corporation running the world media  pageant.  These were great and served to give a better insight into the true nature of each contestant.
"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" (page 177)
This is a worthwhile story coated in Shiny glittery plastic. The way the story is told is it's own illustration of the moral it has to share with the reader:  that we need to look deeper beneath appearances and surface surface expectations down to what is important to the truth of who we are.  Great concept, wonderful quirkiness, OK execution.  Another book that I had to force myself to keep reading past the drawn-out middle to a last third that I really enjoyed.

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