Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray

Pages: 396, hardcover

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Source: own

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.Written by Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

So imagine an episode of LOST with teen beauty pageant models and a dash of Lord of the Flies, and this is basically what you have.
Libba Bray's scathing yet comedic commentary on the perception of beauty, on mega-corporations, on sexism and racism, and so many more is a riot and a half. I had so much fun reading this.

This was a book that is hardly subtle in its commentary, and for a young adult book, it feels almost revolutionary. I haven't read a book like this that was so feminist in a long time. This is outwardly and proudly feminist and I love it.
At some points of the novel, though, it's a bit heavy-handed. It's already obvious enough what the topics are, but it sometimes lays it on too thick.

Past the halfway mark, it gets a bit too surreal for my liking, when a ship of pirate actors washes up on shore. It became too ridiculous for me. This is my first Bray novel, though I've read some of her shorter fiction in various YA anthologies, and as far as I can tell, this is similar to another of her novels, Going Bovine, in that it's a surreal ride. I'm not a fan of surrealism. I had enough of it at uni.

When the pirate actors come into play, even the most steadfast character, Adina, gets easily wooed, and turns into one of the gushy girls she constantly criticises. This sudden about-face was jarring and completely ruined the character for me. It felt like everything that had been so carefully built up had come crashing down.

Speaking of characters, very few felt fully formed. Most are delegated to their states, and it's difficult to remember who's who. Some are complete tropes, which may or may not be intentional parodies, but either way, it took away from the serious commentaries of the story.

I ended up skimming the last hundred or so pages, bored out of my mind. I'm definitely not going to check out Going Bovine if it's anything like this, and am side-eyeing her Gemma Doyle trilogy and The Diviners.

To wrap up, I would have given the first half a solid 5 stars, but in the end, I give it only 2 stars.

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