If there’s one thing that never gets old, it’s a survival story. “Hopeless individuals unexpectedly stranded on a deserted island” is a timelessly exciting premise that yields itself to character development as well as twists and turns as to how such an accident occurred. Add another surprising element and a dash of humor to the mix and you have a smash hit: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. This satirical young adult fiction novel has been a favorite of mine for years, and when I revisited it this past month I was reminded of how much I loved the story. Read on for a spoiler-free review!
The world of beauty pageants has been examined in various types of media for years through many different lenses. Books like Dumplin tackle them as a barrier breaking girl power opportunity, but Beauty Queens falls more along the lines of Miss Congeniality, the 2000 classic movie starring Sandra Bullock as a government spy undercover as a pageant queen for a mission. Beauty Queens opens with the perspective of an outsider journalist posing as Miss New Hampshire to deconstruct and critique the fictional “Miss Teen Dream” beauty pageant. After a plane transporting all 50 Teen Dreamers crashes on a remote island with no help in sight, the girls must bind together and redefine their humanity as well as their womanhood. With a rotating POV and a full cast of memorable characters, the bold personalities of the beauty queens themselves will be sure to stick with you after finishing the novel.
One of the best qualities that this novel has is its ability to poke fun at itself and the pageant system. Between perspectives and flashbacks from the girls, brief infomercials and news bulletins advertising products and media schemes from a corporation seeking to make teen girls reach an impossible beauty standard. All of these references are tongue-in-cheek and delivered in a winky tone that lets the reader in on how truly ridiculous they are. In elevating this understanding of what expectations meet every teen girl, not just pageant queens, the book opens up a wider conversation especially during Women’s History Month. If you’re looking for an extra dose of girl power and a quick paced story, check out Beauty Queens. The book is currently available in the Chicago Public Library system or via Overdrive and Libby apps! Our final rating: 4.5 out of 5 True Stars!
By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young Magnet High School