Thursday, July 21, 2011

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

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?

I’ve read all of Libba Bray’s books so far, and have enjoyed most of them. Well, sort of. After her last book, I decided that her style just isn’t my taste and figured that would be that. But then I read the summary above. Sounds fantastic, right? Plus, the cover is hysterical. So, I got sucked into reading this book. And…

…Libba Bray’s style just isn’t my taste. I know this now, clearly and unmistakably, and I won’t be picking up another of her books. So, keeping that in mind, here are my thoughts about Beauty Queens.

I will fully admit that I was mesmerized by beauty pageants when I was a kid. All those women looked so glamorous and perfect, and I thought they must have had better lives than mine. As I got older, I learned what pageant life is really like, and that completely changed the way I saw them. Beauty Queens is a spoof on pageants, and parts of it were very entertaining. Such as, Miss Texas’s determination to keep practicing her walk, rehearsing for the show, and quizzing herself on interview questions despite the fact that only a fraction of the contestants survived the plane crash. Plus, a search of the plane turned up as many beauty products as food and water. Those are such obvious clich├ęs that they’re funny, and the story is chock full of them.

The parts I had difficulty with are specifically Bray’s style. She takes reality and turns it around to the point that it’s so clearly not possible and becomes funny. Well, funny for those who like that kind of humor. Beauty Queens is in the vein of Austin Powers meets The Naked Gun. I didn’t care for either movie, and, hence, didn’t care for this story. A girl with a tray sticking out of her head (but suffers from not medical trauma, other than her ‘look’ is ruined) and snakes that snarf people like in cartoons isn’t my cup of tea.

Even more so, that kind of humor sets the tone of the book. So, later on when things start getting pretty far ‘out there,’ I have no idea how to process it. Is Bray still trying to be funny, or is she trying to mix in a deeper message? If the latter, then the message got muddled in the crazy humor. The more 'out there' the humor is, the less you take it seriously (you're not supposed to, because it's a spoof). So, if there's a meaningful message in there, it's going to get lost because no one is taking anything seriously.

That said, I have friends who would think this kind of thing is funny, and I’d definitely recommend this book to them and anyone else with a similar taste in humor. If you’re not so keen on slapstick, though, you might want to skip it.

9 comments:

Beth S. said...

Have you ever heard Libba Bray speak before? If you haven't, then know that she is just as quirky as her books. I read Going Bovine before I had ever heard her speak and was totally confounded by the book. But then I watched a few things with her speaking on YouTube and thought to myself, "Oh! Now I get it! She's not trying to make her books crazy. She's just crazy herself." (And I mean that in a good way.) It made me appreciate her writing style a little bit more.

khashway said...

Hmm, I haven't read any of her books but I don't think this kind of humor is for me. I'm sure there are a ton of people who enjoy that sort of humor though.

Tabitha said...

Yeah, I've seen her speak so I've seen how 'crazy' she is. In a good way, of course. :) It does explain her writing style, but reinforces that it's just not my taste. I've got a very practical personality, so crazy-out-there folks and I don't usually connect. But they do make the world more interesting. :)

Tabitha said...

Kelly - yep, plenty of people. It's not a bad story by any means, it's just not for me. So I'll just send the book on over to those who like that kind of humor. :)

ringothecat said...

I actually loved Going Bovine. For all its quirkiness and outlandish-ness it felt thoroughly 'humane' to me. However, BQ is a totally different matter...I agree with a lot of what you say about Beauty Queens...I just could not get into it. I wrote a review today on my blog about it too.

Krispy said...

I haven't read Going Bovine or this one because I'm a little hesitant about the wackiness and humor. She seems like a funny quirky lady herself, so I'm not surprised by the turn her books have taken from her Gemma Doyle trilogy, which I loved. But Gemma Doyle was in an entirely different vein, and I'm not sure what to make of Going Bovine and Beauty Queens.

Thanks for the review! Gives me yet another perspective on this thing. I think I'll be safest getting this one from the library. :)

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

I haven't read her books, so I can't say. I'm not a big fan of "quirky" though. Hadn't planned to read this one because so many others are on my list. Thanks for the review.

Medeia Sharif said...

I recently heard her speak at a book signing. She's hilarious.

I have a Kindle sample of this book. I'm enjoying it, so I'll end up purchasing it.

Have a great weekend.

charmaine smith said...

I absolutely cannot wait to read this. I love Libba's books. Thanks for the great review.

Charmaine Smith (Click here to learn about - Gold Beach Oregon Rogue River Fishing Guide)