Tuesday 4 October 2011

Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

I should really know by now not to judge books by their covers.

Take Beauty Queens. Never having read anything by Libba Bray before, I took one glance at this cover and dismissed it as not my thing. Something about the headless girl in a bikini just put me off. Without even reading the blurb, I assumed the book would be nothing more than cheesy, rudimentary fluff. Then I saw Audrey's raving review on Holes in my Brain and thought twice about my judgement. Last week I finally read Beauty Queens and discovered just how wrong I was.

Telling the story of a group of teen pageant girls who get stranded on an island after their plane crashes, Beauty Queens is most definitely not cheesy, or even very fluffy for that matter. What it is, is sharp, witty, intelligent, fun, and bloody hilarious. Bray satirises everything from beauty pageants and reality TV to commercialism and sex education - but it's never preachy and always spot-on. She has such a clever way with words that the whole book is totally quotable.

But while the language is awesome and the plot is interesting, it's the characters that really make the book a standout. Initially I was worried about being able to keep track of all the different girls, but each is so well developed that it wasn't a problem at all. They were all strong, distinct, realistic and, suprisingly, even likable - yep, I liked every single beauty queen. And I loved the way they all came together to survive, and used their skills to thrive. They were such great company that I took more time than I needed to read Beauty Queens, because I didn't want to part with them. Now I'm going to hunt down as much Libba Bray as I can get my hands on!

Rating: 5/5

Spoilery Talking Points
  • The only problem I had with the book - and it was very minor - was the fact that Petra was so freaked out about her medication at the beginning that she risked her life, but later on the fact that she'd only had a week's worth is totally dropped. Wouldn't her male hormones start emerging after she stopped taking the medication? 
  • I looooooved the relationship between Petra and Sinjin. They flirted with word play, quoting Dickens. Dickens! To a Dickens nerd like me, it was just about the sexiest exchange ever.
  • I was so upset about what happened with the Casanova wannabe pirate and Adina. What a jerk! But then, it was kinda good and definitely more realistic that all the pairings weren't soulmate material. Plus I really liked Adina's personal journey, as well as Mary Lou's - though my absolute fave would have to be Tiara's!

Eye Candy
Everyone is pretty in this book, natch. Here are some of the girls (and guys) I pictured...

Candice Accola as Tiara

Blake Lively as Taylor

Ed Westwick as Sinjin

Kat Dennings as Adina

Lauren Conrad as Petra

Lucy Hale as Mary Lou

Lincoln Lewis as Tane
Fine Print
Genre: Young Adult
Published: 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Get It: Book Depository

Speaking of beauty queens, Ashley Tisdale recently did a parody of Toddlers and Tiaras (a show I enjoy way more than I'd care to admit) that could possibly be the best work she's ever done. Hilar!


  1. You really have to listen to the audiobook now - Libba Bray reads it and she does all the voices - it's hilarious!

  2. But I want all the pairing to be soulmate material. That is what I live for!


    Love this review, Belle. Glad to know that the characters are distinct and funny and work get together to tell a story.

  3. love the review! I really cant wait to get my hands on this one, it sounds great!

  4. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I have Bray's Great and Terrible Beauty (I've had it for years now, in fact!), and have been meaning to read it for an age. I've heard nothing but good things about her work.

  5. @Jennifer - I've never listened to an audiobook, but this might be a good place to start! Sounds like fun. Thanks for the tip!

    @Missie - Thanks! I usually like everyone to have a HEA too, though they kinda do in this story, in their own ways...

    @Raimy - Thanks! It's a lot of fun, I'd love to know what you think.

    @Stephanie - I'm definitely going to read some more of her work now, I really enjoyed her style. Can't believe I haven't read any till now!

  6. OMG! I loved your choices for the characters. Wasn't this book fab? I loved watching each of these girls go through their own personal journey. The book is hella funny but it also pretty sad when you stop and think about it. I laughed at so many things but my mind immediately went to why it was so laughable, which is not very funny at all...

  7. @Smash, I know what you mean, some aspects of society that Bray satirises are quite scary when you think about it!

  8. Awesome review. I really must try this book. Initially I was going to pass on it but I keep hearing such great things.

  9. I so want to read this book. Great characters just make a book! Such a great casting and funny vid! LOL

  10. @Juju - Thanks! I was going to pass too and I'm so glad I didn't.

    @Melissa - I think you'd really enjoy it!

  11. I just found your review as I was hunting for a cover image to use on my own review! I loved characters you cast - especially Kat Dennings for Adina and Lincoln Lewis for Tane. I've never even heard of Lincoln Lewis before, but he looks just as I'd imagine!

  12. I just finished this book yesterday! Then I found your blog today and saw you'd reviewed this. Pretty cool, huh? :) Anyway, I loved this book too! And I initially wrote it off, thinking it was some fluffy YA book about girls stuck on an island. Boy, was I wrong! It's so clever and funny and Libba Bray did an excellent job of blending in so many different issues by making all the girls different.

    As to your spoiler points, I was wondering the same thing about Petra's meds. And I did think it was a little odd how some of the people stayed together at the end. It seemed a bit unrealistic considering most of them were 17 and it's not likely that you'll stay with your first boyfriend forever. I think my favorite was Mary Lou. I loved her and Tane together! :)

    1. Hi! I'm glad you found my blog :) With the relationships, I guess it's common in YA for them to stay together at the end. Way more common than in real life, that's for sure! Mary Lou was great.

  13. I read this ages ago. But like you I remember having a similar sentiment regarding the magic. It just seemed so far fetched. Great review!

    Charmaine Smith (Click here to learn about - Fishing Guide Rogue River Salmon Fishing Gold Beach Oregon)