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Beauty Queens! Pirates! Reality TV!

July 11, 2011

Beauty Queens
Libba Bray
Scholastic, 396 pages
Library book.

When their plane crashes on a desert island, the contestants of the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant have to work together to survive in the wilderness. With just that, they’d be out of their congenial, sequined, baton twirling depth. Add a sinister corporation, and a few contestants who aren’t what they seem to be, and things really get interesting. Did I mention the pirates? And the reality TV?

If any of the above makes you laugh, or if you’ve ever enjoyed Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s combination of ass-kicking women and snark… this is the book for you. It sets itself up with plenty of pop culture, from a frame as a Corporation-sponsored Reality Show (with commercial breaks), to nods to boy bands and beauty products. The girls’ approach to their beauty queen identity, and their reaction to being stranded, will vary from helplessness to awesome ass-kicking… and some transformation from one to the other.
Some of the ones to watch- Taylor, who really buys into the pageant queen ethos at the outset; smart-mouthed Adina, who really does not; Mary Lou, whose evolution is fascinating, and Petra, just because.

I wish this could get another life as a comic book or graphic novel, or even a television series, because there’s so much that’s visual, and paced like a TV show. With stronger, better female characters, and funnier dialogue, than a lot of what’s on TV or in movies.

Great fun, and an ideal, summer read- a goofy adventure with some substance lurking under its snark.

For every book I read in 2011, I’m donating $1 to the New York Public Library.

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