Satire at its best: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray [REVIEW]

9464733Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
First published by in May 2011 by Scholasic Press
Tags: Young Adult, Dystopia, Satire

Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | B&N 

Source: Purchased

Rating:  photo five stars_zpsr2o5iiuv.png

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.

me before you review blog

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?

Follow me on Twitter | Goodreads | Bloglovin’ | Instagram

4 thoughts on “Satire at its best: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray [REVIEW]

  1. pavedwithbooks says:

    I love this book! It’s probably the first satire I read and while I thought it was really weird at first, I fell in love with how it portrays each girl’s struggles. I also love that the most obviously feminist character isn’t portrayed as the role-model of the story, but rather that she and all of the girls learn that they are more than whatever society wants them to be. Anyway, great review!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anna says:

    I love Libba… I loved her eloquent exploration of femininity, social expectations, and self oriented introspection (et al) in the Gemma Doyle Trilogy… And I really, really, REALLY wanted to like this book because I’d heard some wonderful things about it. But I legitimately hated this book with every fiber of my being. I couldn’t stand it.

    The main character was literally every know it all, “my way’s the only right way”, Tumblr-esque radical feminist I’ve ever met. Literally all of the characters were impossible to relate to. The writing was juvenile and sloppy… It was, through and through, a blunt instrument; inelegantly written and with absolutely none of the finesse I’d seen in the Gemma Doyle trilogy.

    Maybe it’s the fact that it was written for the younger end of the YA Spectrum whereas tGDT was written for the upper / older end of it… But I genuinely believe that there was a much better way to write a female focused satire of Lord of the Flies (which in itself was a Satire, making satirizing it a bit ironic); it’s almost like writing Satire means doing away with good writing- and it’s a trap I see may modern authors fall into all too often.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s