The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream Pageant are supposed to be on a beach, preparing for the big day where one of them would get the crown. Instead, their plane crash landed onto a seemingly deserted island. Most of their possessions were lost and they have no way to keep up their beauty. At first, they decide to keep practicing their pageant routines, but after a while, survival is more important. As time goes on, the practiced, fake facade of each girl falls, revealing someone imperfect, but real. Little do they know that on hidden parts of the island nefarious government dealings are happening and the girls are considered an inconvenience to be terminated. Can the girls be resourceful enough to not only survive the dangers of the island, but their own government?
The descriptions I've read for Beauty Queens have all been misleading. I was expecting Lord of the Flies and Battle Royale rolled into one with pageant queens. So I expected them all to hunting and killing each other, which sounded awesome. This does not happen at all. The actual book is much better than that, so don't let the descriptions fool you. Beauty Queens is not only a dypstopian novel, but also a satire. Other novels have attempted to do this, but this is one of the few that have succeeded being both.
The dystopian world is not too much different from our's and the problems with our society are exaggerated to laughable proportions. I haven't laughed at a book this much in a long time. Through humor and exceptional writing, Bray exposed the stupidity and unattainability of the beauty standard, the way pop culture is used as propaganda for this beauty standard and assumptions about women, and the corruption of big corporations. The different sections of the novel really helped organize it and better expose these issues. In between the story The commercials were completely over the top and ridiculous in their attempts to shame women and impose social norms. The exaggeration is hilarious, but through the humor, the reader sees that commercials actually do those things through much more subtle ways. The media continues to perpetuate ideas about what women should be like and it isn't really how real women are.
This novel features a large cast of characters, most of them teenage girls. I thought it would be difficult to keep track of so many, but they all have defining characteristics and their own chance to shine. It was surprisingly easy to remember all of them. At first, the girls keep up their beauty queen facades, but as time goes by, their true selves start to shine through. They realize that they don't have to be the ideal woman: hairless, skinny, uninterested in sex yet must have a man to validate her life, and unintelligent. They have the right to assert their opinions, question their sexuality, be intelligent, decide what they want to do with their lives, enjoy sex and food, and above all, they are free to be themselves. Each of the girls has her own set of insecurities and fears, but together, they work to overcome them and embrace themselves, regardless of the view society has of them. You might think that beauty queens are fragile, meek, plastic creatures, but they are just young girls figuring things out like the rest of us. These characters are all surprisingly relatable, even though at the outset of the novel, I didn't think I had anything in common with them. When the girls shed their plastic exteriors, I argue that anybody can relate to them.
Beauty Queens was an unexpected and wonderful adventure. It has just about everything: evil corporations, beauty queens, pirates, a plane crash, and a deserted island full of possibilities. This is easily one of the best young adult novels I have ever read and I would recommend this to everyone.
My rating: 5/5 fishmuffins