Review Blog

Jul 11 2011

Beauty queens by Libba Bray

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Allen and Unwin, 2011. ISBN 9781742377070.
(Age 15+) Highly recommended for mature readers. When a plane carrying teen beauty queens to their pageant destination, crashes on a densely forested island, the survivors have to bring all their resources together to stay alive. Keeping to their beauty regime while building shelters and finding food can be quite a challenge but the girls manage not only to survive but to find some beauty products as well!
An award winning author, Libba Bray uses satire at its best to point out the difficulties that her young beauty queens face in their world. It is a place where reality TV and corporate sponsorship dominate. The ideal of beautiful faces and bodies is obsessively pushed at girls, often by their mothers.
Bray chooses a group of girls, the leader Miss Texas, highly intelligent Adina Greenberg who wants to bring the beauty pageant down, and Shanti Singh, who can make papadum 'as my mother and grandmother taught me,' standing out for me.There are many more to show the different pressures that the girls are under, not least having pushy parents who insist on their entering the beauty scene. The reader finds out about them from their Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts page and then follows their journey as they learn how to become self-sufficient and able to rely on others on the island. There are great moments when the girls flex their imaginations and beauty materials to cope, like using stretch materials to gather water.
The introduction of a sub plot where soldiers for the Corporation are attempting to take over a small country and are stationed on the island provides plenty of action and suspense. The appearance of a ship carrying a group of gorgeous young men, pirates from the Captains Bodacious TV series, provides some lively love interest.
There are many laugh aloud moments as Bray satirises the Corporation and Ladybird Hope, the beauty queen mentor for the girls. But the story revolves around what happens to the girls when there is no beauty pageant to win and they must discover who they really are. There are important messages for girls about sexuality; obsession with body image and friendship, all packed up in a funny, challenging book. It will be sure to get them thinking about product advertising, big business, boy bands and dictators.
Some sex scenes, violence and discussion of sexual orientation make it a book for the older teen. The theme of female empowerment and girls finding themselves, as well as a fabulous conclusion, make it a very worth while read.
Pat Pledger

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