Book Review

by Libba Bray

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Young Adult

2011 RT Book of the Year Nominee

2011 Young Adult Novel Award Winner

RT Rating

This book is everything I wanted it to be — and more. Full of satirical humor, unpredictable plot twists and just general awesomeness. What could have turned into a Lord of the Flies or Lost knockoff becomes a testament to girl power in Bray’s capable hands. Beauty Queens is officially one of my most favorite books ever. Weird, wonderful and just perfect.

When the Miss Teen Dream contestants’ plane crashes on a “deserted” island, the girls must band together and use their pageant skills (in increasingly unusual ways) to survive, because they’ve got more than human-eating snakes to worry about: They’ve crashed somewhere their sponsor, The Corporation, doesn’t want found. Will they be able to parade back to the mainland? (SCHOLASTIC, Jun., 400 pp., $18.99, ISBN: 9780439895972, HC, 14 & Up)

Reviewed By: Marie Bongiorno


Published: June 2011

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All the right plot points, but can't deliver.

Submitted by arielgyang on August 1, 2011 - 8:18pm.

Perhaps my expectations were impossibly high, how could they not be after a masterpiece like Going Bovine?


Beauty Queens starts off beautifully (no pun intended) - a mysterious plane crash, quirky characters, and the challenge of surviving without food, shelter, and -gasp- lip gloss! Libba Bray makes it clear that this is not a Lost or Lord of the Flies inspired story, but it could have been a brilliant and witty comeback to both. A female alternative to Golding's story would have made for great discussion in schools and public libraries. With generous influences from fellow 'dystopian' novels like M.T. Anderson's Feed, a materialistic world run underhandedly by The Corporation and fellow countries with Chavez-inspired dictators produces shallow, narcissistic teenage girls, and what archetype is more extreme than the beauty pageant girl. The demand is there with shows abound on cable networks and the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant's Miss South Carolina interview fiasco. 


Unfortunatly, all the sarcastic commercials and witty dialogue could not save a potentially awesome story. If the intention was to show shallow teens finding their inner Girl Power, or bridge the gap between petty differences to encourage girls across the spectrum to unite against a world that demands skinny, perfectly coiffured, pleasant and unopiniontated girls, then it was an 'epic fail'. Bray should have focused on one goal instead of branching off into weak tangeants. Is it a survival story? If so, leave out the government and corporation conspiracies. Outside characters were two-dimensional and drew away from the already too-large cast at hand. And what was with the ship full of cockney-accented actors and the Australian eco-warrior that popped up out of nowhere to woo the girls. Was a love-plot that necessary? The romance that blossomed briefly between two of the girls could have been an all-encompassing focus on positive relationships in general. 


All-in-all, I cringed more than I smiled, and said, "Huh?" more than "Ha!" The potential was strong, but the inconsistant messages, thin characters, and silly plot-twists left me disappointed. Libba Bray has shown true talent in past YA novels, but this one felt rushed and un-loved.