Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The set-up: An airplane carrying Miss Teen Dream Beauty Pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island.

Main characters’ goals: I think a better question here would be “Who are the main characters?” because there are SO MANY. I’m not knocking it – it’s unusual and fun. But it’s hard to give specifics. Basically, the girls’ initial goal (collectively) is to get off the island and get home.

My reaction: In all honesty, I will admit this was not a fast read for me. There could be a number of factors here – revisions on my own work-in-progress, being sick, and whatever. But I think the main reason is my personal preference for singular point-of-view stories. I don’t generally enjoy dipping into the heads of many characters; I don’t like how it interrupts the flow of the story.

That said! Bray writes this story VERY WELL. The multiple viewpoint works for the book. We are expected to be torn out of the story line periodically, because this narrative has commercial breaks – yes, commercial breaks! – scripted into the book. So even though multiple (or is this omniscient?) POV isn’t something I always embrace, the approach works here.

Also, as the cover promises, it is very funny, very satirical, and overall enjoyable.

Of interest to writers: Again, commercial breaks! Satire! This is a unique story, told in a unique way (there are also footnotes, which I love). Even if you don’t want to read the whole 390-page book, it’s worth a peek just to see how Bray presents the story. The writing and plot are surprising, and “surprising” is a very refreshing thing in YA literature.

I always read Acknowledgements pages, and must also say, the Acknowledgements in Beauty Queens are hilarious.

Bottom line: Commercial breaks!

Reminds me of: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (because of the utter bizarreness of the premise)


  1. PB Rippey · March 26, 2012

    I can’t believe I haven’t read ‘Swamplandia!’. Am acquiring a copy immediately. I will wait on ‘Beauty Queens’ as I still haven’t finished ‘Going Bovine’———–did you read it?

    • Beth Hull · March 26, 2012

      No, haven’t read Going Bovine – should I?

      Hey, before Swamplandia!, read St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. It’s a collection of short stories by Russell and the first one, “Ava and the Alligator,” is where Swamplandia! comes from.

  2. Maggie · March 27, 2012

    Beauty Queens was one of the best YA books I read last year (or ever, really). I loved the commercial breaks and the footnotes, and I felt that the author did a good job of getting into each character’s head and making them all unique and different instead of just cardboard cutouts. And it’s definitely not your typical YA novel.

    • Beth Hull · March 27, 2012

      You’re right, Maggie, Bray did a fabulous job of making each of the POV characters unique. I especially liked the little questionnaires she provided for each of them, and how their different personalities emerged in answering the same questions.

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