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Beauty Queens Paperback – 1 Jun 2012
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Praise for Beauty Queens:"'Beauty Queens' is a madcap surrealist satire of the world in which her readers have come of age - reality TV, corporate sponsorship, product placement, beauty obsession - but ultimately, it's a story of empowering self-discovery." - New York Times Book Review * "Readers will come for the twisted fun and walk away with a whole banquet of questions." - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, starred review * "Whip-smart social commentary, surreal plot elements, and feminist themes come together in this bizarre and brilliant story.... The empowering theme of self-acceptance and the affirming message that women should not underestimate themselves or others makes this novel a potentially life-changing book for budding feminists." - School Library Journal, starred review "Though the jokes fly thick as unplucked brows, Bray also goes deeper into each character to show how our culture's insidious focus on female perfection keeps girls from being who they are. ... Escaping civilization-the best thing that could happen to a teenage girl? Sure looks that way." - Horn Book "Bray spins this hilarious romp into an examination of femininity and feminism, sex and sexuality." - Booklist
About the Author
Libba Bray is the author of the 2010 Printz Award winning Going Bovine, and the acclaimed Gemma Doyle trilogy. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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This is what every teenage girl should be reading. In fact, scratch that, it's what every teenager regardless of gender should be reading. This is the novel that has compiled it all, pretty much every single young adult issue has been condensed into this 380 (give or take) page book of awesomeness. I won't go shouting about it being everybody's favourite book... I'm sure that just isn't true and the mixed reviews so far have only proved my concerns about Libba Bray's humour not suiting everyone and the strange format in which the book is written also won't appeal to every single person. But, god if it isn't important!
It says everything that needs to be said. It also says what people think and don't say because they're afraid of looking bad or being laughed at or being pitied. It's not just a book about gender, feminism, slut-shaming, beauty myths, depression, family issues, homosexuality, transexuality, race, racism, disabilities and feeling inadequate. It's about all of those things combined on a desert island where a bunch of Teen Beauty contestants struggle to survive without hair straighteners, make-up and lotions.
I expected this to be another 'bitch' book. What do I mean? I mean the stories where girls turn on each other and destroy one another through carefully manipulated psychological abuse. I expected a combination of Lord of the Flies and 'Mean Girls'. This is not that book. This story is the one where girls, who in other circumstances are little more than each other's competition, come together in a time of crisis and find that just by sticking together and opening up to one another they come to understand more about themselves and how they are far more important than the labels they wear.
This is the message I've always wanted to see and I understand why some people don't think this is the reality. I've read some reviews where it seems to be the opinion that girls in these circumstances would turn on each other in true high school bitchy fashion. I disagree. Yeah, I'm going to say that (and I'm not going to say sorry either, lol). I think that, in fact, I know from experience that people act differently when in a crisis. Priorities change and you see whole new sides of people's personalities. That is what happens here. When the girls' world is turned upside down, they do what they must to survive and, through doing so, realise a great deal of important stuff too. What I love most is that while Libba Bray's message about beauty being of no real importance is obvious, she also works to show the reader how that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with a girl wanting to look nice. This is an expression of sexuality and the novel's all for that. Can a girl who wears make-up be a feminist? Of course, ridiculous question!
This is a book about survival, femininity and (kinda cheesy but I love it) being yourself. I thought it was wonderful and all the time managed to stay on the right side of that fine line between feminism and misandry. If you learn nothing else from this book, at least take away the fact that every opinion is just as important and you should never apologise for your own... on that note, I am completely, shamelessly and unapologetically (I looked it up and it is a real word!) in love with this book.
I have to say, it just rocketed to the top of my list of favorites.
Starting out as a fluffy novel perfect for reading on the beach, the startling wit, fantastic humor and genius highlighting of important issues that affect women today really made this a pleasurable book to read.
I enjoyed the notations as an unusual addition to a fiction book, they added even more laughs and not-so-subtle digs at our image obsessed society.
I would classify the story as a mix of Miss Congeniality + James Bond + Lord of the Flies = Awesome!
1) DON'T believe any mornonic reviewers that say this book is basically Lord of the Flies meets Lost because this is not an accurate reflection of this novel at all. There are vague similarities, but the grittiness of Lord of the Flies and the earnest mystery of Lost are nowhere to be found. Yes, there is an island where strange things happen, and yes there is a group of young people creating a society in the absence of adults. That's about as close as the stories actually intersect.
2) KEEP READING. This book is more than the sum of its parts. Yes, it's a satire initially, but please don't think you know where the author is going with it in the first 10 pages of the book, because you very likely do not.
If you follow those two rules, what you will find is a satirical commentary on gender and expectations combined with a reflective feminist primer book that eases the reader into the idea that things don't have to be just what they seem.
I'm being crypic, I know. To say it more plainly, this book is excellent and it needs to be read. It's got some very adult scenarios (transgendered person and loss of virginity, the importance of safe sex, to name a few.( This makes it difficulty for me to name a bottom limit as to which age group I'd recommend this for. Then again, perhaps if I'm wondering how old someone should or shouldn't be, I've missed the message of the book entirely.