Have you ever wondered what it would be like to write a whole entire book based solely on random topics drawn from a hat? Well, I think if you read Libba Bray's Beauty Queens you could have that experience. If you are a fan of beauty pageants, pirates, Lost, and irony, this is the book for you.
The book follows the contestants of the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant as they travel to a tropical location for some fun times and a photo shoot, when, much to everyone's surprise the plane crashes, killing all of the adults and many of the beauty queens. Luckily, however, the mishmash of contestants are able to piece together their preparation as pageant girls and construct a plan for survival. This in and of itself makes for an exciting read, but when readers learn that the sponsor of the pageant, the Corporation, is truly a villainous organization, things start to get interesting.
One thing I like about the book is the inclusion of all the hilarious footnotes 1. Bray integrates commercials and product placement throughout the novel imitating how commercial this world really is. One of the funniest things about the footnotes is that even though they are completely ridiculous, I found myself being reminded of actual products as I read them. Scary, right?
In addition to managing to weave together the most seemingly random of topics to create a story, Bray also weaves together lots of different types of characters. There are the confused, the damaged, the pressured, and the rebels- just like in real life. And just like in reality, we don't usually know the real story behind people. We usually only see what's on the surface. Well played Libba, well played.
On a side note, I also love The Gemma Doyle Trilogy which includes Great and Terrible Beauty, Rebel Angels, and The Sweet Far Thing also by Libba Bray. They tell the story of a group of girls who share a magical bond and are full of mystery and intrigue. Her novel Going Bovine earned her the Printz Award. Not too shabby! And, as if that weren't enough, she toured with Meg Cabot this summer promoting Beauty Queens. Any friend of Meg Cabot certainly gets my vote!
1. Note: This book is probably more suited for high school readers than middle school.