The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.
What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program–or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan–or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?
Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.
I’ve said before that this book isn’t going to be easy to review without it turning into a fully fledged essay on feminism, satire, and dystopian societies. I’ve literally had this review in my drafts for months because I have no idea how to write it. I’ll just have to try to convey to you how good I think this is in a semi-eloquent manner.
If you’ve read the synopsis, it should be quite clear that this book is satire. And it’s really good satire. It looks critically at the beauty industry, sexism, racism, and overall it criticizes society’s treatment of women, young girls in particular. It also satirizes reality TV, consumer culture, and politics. For example, in the book we find out how this one key ingredient used in cosmetic products is also a powerful explosive.
Not only is the whole book spot-on, it’s hilarious and incredibly important.
Basically, it starts with a plane crash. A bunch of teen beauty queens crash on an island and it’s pretty much Lost (the ABC show) in which all the characters are Shannon. Sound fun? It is.
But it’s so much more than just a book about some beauty queens struggling to live without their eyeliner, because this is a dystopian story. However, it is set in our world, our time, and it’s much like it is today, which is the whole point. In a sense, our world can be like a dystopia to young girls because of the ridiculous expectations society puts forward. Libba Bray takes that and pushes it to the extreme. The villain of this story, the controlling dystopian authority, is the Corporation. Who are they really? It’s not really explored in the book, it’s just “the Corporation says this, the Corporation says that.” Then you realize, the Corporation is society personified. The villain doesn’t need an explanation because we already know it. We already live it, just in a less obvious way.
The Corporation owns and arranges the beauty contest, among other things. I’ll show you an example of how the Corporation controls things. Throughout the book we get to see all the girls’ “Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts Page” that they’ve submitted to the Corporation before the pageant, which consists of some info about them, like their name, height, weight, and what they like to do. And sometimes the Corporations have some little sidenotes that they’ve added, things they’d like the girls to change. For instance:
“My favorite novel is Orlando, by Virginia Woolf. I’ve read it four times.*
*Pageant official says I should change this to something more “relatable,” like I Love You So Much I Forgot to Have a Real Life. But that book makes me want to Yak.”
I’m a total comics fiend, and my favorite shop is Galaxy Comics in Flint. Shout-out to Mohammed and Akilah!*
*Pageant officials think this makes me sound Muslim. Want to know if we can change it to “Shout-out to Mo and Alice.”
By far one of the funniest parts of the book was about the boyband (Boyz Will B Boyz) and their song lyrics. I mean, have you ever heard anything more accurate?
“What was your favorite song of theirs?” Tiara asked.
“‘Let Me Shave Your Legs Tonight, Girl,'” Petra blurted out.
“Ohmigosh, I LOVE that one!” Tiara said, clapping. “How about ‘I Only Want to Be with You’ or ‘I Just Need to Be Yours’ or ‘You, You, You’?”
Nicole chimed in. “‘I Gave Up My Hobbies so I Could Spend More Time with You.’ ‘I Love You Like a Stalker!’ Or — ooh, I know: ‘Safe Tween Crush’?”
LMFAO. This reminded me of Repeat Stuff by Bo Burnham.
While the main focus of this book is the group of girls, Libba Bray also looks at male beauty and behavior standards when she brings in a group of famous male eye-candy actors from a TV show about pirates. And it’s just as funny.
This is a book about learning to break free from the box society tries to put you in and all I can say is, please read this book. It’s so so so much fun. Satire at its best. Plus, it’s an interesting story.
Have you read this book? Tell me what you think!
I haven’t posted anything on this blog in months. Gulp. I’ll try to post more often. What have you guys been reading lately? What’s going on in the blogosphere?