So, yeah. I got to read the new Libba Bray book before it releases this week (May 24, Scholastic). And yes, you should be jealous. It. Totally. Rocks. Take my advice and head directly to your nearest book-purchasing outlet (such as the link on the left. I tell you this because I love you, my readers. It's just that good.)
Let me put it this way, if BEAUTY QUEENS isn’t already in pre-production, then Hollywood needs to snap to. This latest offering from the Printz Award-winning author of GOING BOVINE and the Gemma Doyle trilogy is the most fun I’ve had between the pages in quite some time. With its ideal-for-the-big-screen plot, deliciously snarky yet endearing characters, and Bray’s legendary searing, sarcastic wit, BEAUTY QUEENS has best-seller written all over it. In cherry bomb red lipstick, no less.
Bray credits editor David Levithan with throwing down the challenge: “A plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island. And … go!” Amazing concept aside, this gloriously crafted satire of the beauty pageant universe, commercialism, and the unholy control that corporate America lords over the minds, bodies and self esteems of young women is quintessential Bray – delivering a punch-in-the-gut message without getting preachy.
Painted with shades of Tropic Thunder, LOST and teen-targeted shows bearing a CW logo in the bottom corner of the screen, BEAUTY QUEENS is more than a story of teenage pageant contestants who crash on a tropical island. It’s about survival, sure, but not just living without running water, flat irons or regular mani/pedis. It’s about surviving the pressures and expectations placed on young women about how they look, what they say, who they are, and the women they want to become. Sometimes literally.
The extensive cast of characters — who embrace stereotypes with a hug so powerful it turns those labels inside out —gives Bray a chance to comment on a wide range of issues from anorexia and gun control to differences of sexuality, cultural and religion — just to point out a few. But beneath it all rings a distinct and guttural Girl Power battle cry, loud and proud, fist defiantly in the air.
Infused with hilarious footnotes, public service messages, and Corporation-funded commercial breaks, BEAUTY QUEENS richly captures the teenage experience of heartbreak, disillusionment, green-eyed rivalry, the iron bonds of friendship, and how the discovery of inner beauty can supersede the desire for sashes and tiaras (e.g., the acceptance of others).
For 15 and up, I'd make BEAUTY QUEENS required reading for every high school girl (and boy, for that matter). It lands a solid placement as one of my Favorite Books of All Time. How Bray will top it, I can’t imagine. But, as always, I look forward to her attempt.