Monday, 9 April 2012

review: Beauty Queens

by Libba Bray
Scholastic Press, May 1 2011
satirical futuristic young adult [?]

The Miss Teen Dream Pageant wasn’t supposed to start with a plane crash. It definitely wasn’t supposed to strand the dozen survivors on a desert island with only a few sticks of mascara, hair remover and evening gowns to stay alive with. The stakes rise as the barriers between the girls break down, a secret agency on the island launches a deadly operation and a ship washes ashore with potent cargo: hot swashbuckling pirates. It’s clear that the pageant will be the least of their worries when they get rescued… or will it?
The cover:

LOVE IT. A friend of mine took one look and said, “Um…” but I actually think the bikini and the guerilla sash of lipstick is wonderfully representative of the novel. The sash works great with the title, as does the author name’s placement, and the entire colour scheme is beautiful. The only thing I have an issue with is the font in which “New York Times Bestselling Author” is written. I mean, a serif font, with the two huge sans serif fonts? *shakes head* Incongruity, man.

Oh, and the hardcover underneath the jacket is a beautiful, beautiful sky blue. <3

The book:

I had no clue what this novel was going to be about. Would it be serious? Or just plain silly? Man, was I happy by the end. :)

Libba Bray’s wit in this book is portrayed immediately with a lovely opening that guarantees a smile from the reader. The situation upon the desert island is set up with ample humour and enough personality, even from the omniscient point-of-view, that within a few pages each of the girls will be easily identifiable.

Format is another stand-out here. With footnotes, commercial breaks and “Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts Page” profiling each girl, Bray flips easily from viewpoint to viewpoint, including those of the secret agents, MoMo B. ChaCha (legit) and Ladybird Hope. With so many people at her disposable, satire is doled out often and cleverly. Levity is rampant, but Bray also drives her point home—subtly—on several key issues (e.g. sexuality, peer pressure).

I was strongly tempted to put this book down, actually, at the start, and I’m so glad I didn’t. By the end, all the girls have become truly likeable people; though Adina’s perspective is somewhat dominant, each girl goes through a shift of some kind. It’s this shift as they get to know each other that makes them so inspiring, so happy-making to read about.

At first glance the antagonist seems, especially in contrast, far too grim to take seriously in the context of the scenario. But in a culminating and uproariously fun finale, even the secret agents get a liberal dose of humour to liven up their personalities. And man, that ending? I can imagine a lot of people calling it too neat, too perfect. But legitimately, it’s the ultimate finish, especially for this wonky, experimental novel. So many smiles, guys. :)

Rating: 4.5 out of 5