TxtingMrDarcy Reads: “Girl Power!” Edition

“Beauty Queens”~ Libba Bray

Book Description: (from Amazon) Survival. Of the fittest.

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…

Soundtrack: “Survivor”~ Destiny’s Child

Everything about this song is PERFECT for these fiesty young women, who prove that they are far more than pretty faces.

Best Enjoyed With: A Pina Colada. There were none in the book, but damn those ladies could have used one.

My only experience with Libba Bray so far has been the Gemma Doyle trilogy, so imagine my surprise when I opened up Beauty Queens and was laughing out loud within in the first few pages.  She skewers practically every aspect of popular culture, from Beauty Products to Bratz dolls, and does it gleefully.

As Army Boy asked, “She doesn’t make fun of the Amish, does she??”

Yes my dear, she certainly does.

I received a copy of this book from the adorable blog The Broke and the Bookish as part of their blogoversary giveaway, and I can’t thank them enough! I’d been wanting to read it for ages, and this was the perfect excuse to pick it up! Thank goodness, they didn’t question my YA street cred. (Not reading Libba Bray is like… not reading the latest Jeffrey Eugenides. Unthinkable!)

Reading this book during training caused a lot of double takes (mostly because of the hilarious cover), and prompted a lot of conversation with my new coworkers. Hopefully at least one or two of them will think to pick it up next time they’re searching for a new author.

As the book description indicates, a plane of contestants for a beauty pageant crashes on a deserted island, and the girls must band together if they want to have any chance of survival. Watching their transformation from pageant princess to friends is an absolute joy, and the characters are wonderfully dimensional. Writing so many distinct personalities, one easily could have gotten lost in the shuffle, but none do. They all have backstories that contribute to their motivation to wanting to be “Miss Teen Dream,” and each has skeletons in her closet that she has to overcome. By the end of the story, I loved each and every one of them (Even the slightly fanatical Miss Texas).

Total side note: this is the second book that I’ve read recently that contains a character that is remarkably similar to a former governor of Alaska.  I have to thank the 2008 presidential campaign for that, really. They gave authors a perfect character for use in satire. 😉

While the girls initially find their pageant programming difficult to overcome (some feel that keeping pageant ready is more important than, oh, survival), it’s a joy to see them putting aside their preconceived notions of who they are and exploring the capable women that they could be. Among their numbers they’re lucky to have some girls familiar with engineering and first aid, along with some who just have a fabulous sense of interior design. Getting away from the pressure of society allows them to explore their actual passions, not the interests that are being dictated to them. They each realize what it truly means to be themselves, not the carefully crafted image that they’ve been projecting to the world.

Of course, everything is not as it seems, and the girls start to realize that their presence on the island is more dangerous than they initially thought. Throw in a corporate conspiracy, some bumbling security agents and a confused dictator, and everything comes together in a delicious romp that’s far more James Bond than Miss Congeniality. Even the structure of the book is entertaining, with the plot interspersed with some “notes” from the Corporation that is bringing the girls’ story to the reader, and  even a commercial or two thrown in.

This book quickly insinuated itself onto my favorites bookshelf, a spot it’s sure to hold for many years to come.

Five out of Five Sparkle Ponies. *jazz hands!*

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