By Libba Bray, Scholastic Press, $18.99, 400 pages
It was supposed to be a tropical vacation for fifty beauty pageant contestants, but it ended before it began. When the Miss Teen Dream pageant plane crashes on an island in the middle of the ocean, only a handful of girls survive. Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray, is the story of how a group of pampered pageant princesses battles to survive the jungle and each other.
At first, the girls wear their state sashes and continue practicing their group dance routine. But without pushy parents or stereotypes to live up to, things begin to change. The girls realize they don’t miss the teeth bleaching, waxing, relaxers, hysterical parents, judges, and rules. They stop referring to each other by state names.
Although marketed for 13-18 year olds, adults will laugh and enjoy it as well. Bray’s critique of the pageant world is both positive and negative, and some people would consider it an unfair portrayal of beauty competitions and those who participate in them. But a society that has shows like Toddlers and Tiaras needs to look critically at the effects the pageant system has on women. Bray’s novel is a thoughtful contribution to the discussion, and it’s a fun read.
Reviewed by Kathryn Franklin