November 26, 2012
Book Review: Beauty Queens
Year Published: 2011
My Rating: 3.5 stars/ 5 stars
I think ludicrously serious (...does that even make sense?!) is how I would describe Beauty Queens. It has such crazy concepts, some ridiculous characters, but amidst all that, it still deals with serious subjects such as feminism, sexuality, discrimination of different skin types, and social and cultural identity.
When I started reading this book, I was expecting a story about teen pageant girls trying to survive in the wilderness and learn new skills to sustain them throughout the days and nights filled with harsh weather and an untamed environment. There was that, all right. But also lots more. Libba Bray definitely dug deep into the layers of possible ideas, and came out with messages of self-empowerment and self-discovery, a deeper look into the world of (false) advertising, and a different perspective on stereotyped pageant girls.
Most of the time, the characters in a book are of high importance. In Beauty Queens, the characters basically made up the whole book. And right now I'm still slightly unconvinced that it was the right decision of Bray to do so. Sure, all the characters had their own unique voices, and had some pretty interesting background history, but I just can't get over the fact that all of it felt a little exaggerated. Like beyond the makeup, glitz, and glam, what lay underneath them still felt a little fake. But I do admire how Bray managed to make every single character shine out, and didn't make the characters seem too repetitive, since there were so many of them.
Plot-wise, I'd say that this book was a hella of a ride. Just when I thought that it couldn't get more crazy, more ridiculous, I am bombarded with another turn of events that just takes this book up another notch on the ladder of absurdity. And you know what, it actually wasn't too bad. I mean, I did think that the plot could've be toned down a wee bit, but I think Bray's passionate and straight-forward writing made up for some of those little issues I had with this book. (One exception would be the never ending footnotes. It was really funny and entertaining in the beginning, but they got a little old as the story progressed).
Sassy, smart, and hearty, Beauty Queens was still a far cry from my ideal kind of book, with its (sometimes) annoying characters and over-extravagant plot. But it definitely taught me a different angle of the world of media and pageants, and got me realizing that some things we are made to believe might not be so true after all...