Beauty Queens

This is a book about a bunch of beauty queens whose plane crashes on an island that was supposedly good. It is by the “gypsies speak Romanian right?” author.

It is actually a cute book that said a bunch of nice, thoughtful things about race and gender and family and a bunch of very mean things about corporations.

I am confused too but it’s a thing I didn’t hate so I thought I should share.It’s not the best book ever – it’s kind of predictable (though its off-the-wallness helps), intensely cutesy, and a couple plot points involve people acting crazy which is a bit of a cop-out. But it’s a very nice book that I’d actually want other people to read, as opposed to pretty much all other YA fiction.

Basically, if the only book a kid reads this year is Unwind, that’s horrible. If the only book they read this year is Beauty Queens, that’s okay and maybe its message about how learning is good will encourage them to work hard in their classes so they too can build murder catapults for their enemies.

It is a book I’m willing to spend actual money to buy, which is more than I would say about most things. So yeah. Read it or buy it as a gift for younger people in your life.

12 Comments

  1. sliz225 says:
    Ooh, I’m glad you did this one, because I have lots of feelings about this book.
    The Good:
    -Well, the message, natch. How many YA books just openly address identity and prejudice the way this books does? Very, very few.
    -The characters. Interesting! Well developed! Except for the tertiaries, who I will get to in a minute!
    -Miss Texas, Taylor. Probably my favorite thing about this book. Tough, capable, and still allowed to be fully committed to the ultra-feminine world of pageants and beauty. Her backstory was a heartbreaker, and I just loved how Bray developed her character. “I can’t be who you want me to be.” I read this book a few years ago, and that line is still bouncing around my head.
    -Adina gets challenged on her “not like other girls” silliness, while still being awesome.
    The Bad:
    -It is aaaaall over the place. Bray tackles gender, race, sexuality, gender identity, disability, and probably at least twelve other things I’m forgetting. She’s not disrespectful in the way she handles any of these things, but it’s more than a bit scattered. Still, she goes reasonably in depth about most of the topics, so? Not too bad? But then Bray has to take on corporations and reality tv and advertisement and beauty standard, and bless her heart–at least somebody is trying–but spread it out over a few books, yeah?
    -The weird, gross running gag of the other, unnamed survivors being identified only by their state (“Miss Alabama!”) and acting as the most vapid, brainless, stereotypes ever. It sort of undercuts the takedown of Adina’s not-like-other-girls nonsense.
    The Weird-
    -I get that it’s satire, but the sheer insanity of it all (Fake-Kim Jong Ill and Fake-Sarah Palin in a hot tub, if I remember correctly) could have been toned down a wee bit.
    -The way Bray kept linking being a woman with the trappings of traditional femininity. I mean, I’m all for everyone being allowed to embrace make-up and dresses and sequins without shame, but I kept getting the weird impression that Bray assumed all women enjoyed these things. Which, to her credit, I don’t think she was actually trying to say?
    But yeah, this was a damn good book, and now I’m going to have to reread sometime.
    1. Farla says:
      The weird, gross running gag of the other, unnamed survivors being identified only by their state (“Miss Alabama!”) and acting as the most vapid, brainless, stereotypes ever. It sort of undercuts the takedown of Adina’s not-like-other-girls nonsense.

      I think the point was that some people are just vapid stereotypes and they’re still people and we shouldn’t feel we need to kick them out of the clubhouse, and they might still have some other trait or ability you’re not expecting. Miss Ohio’s initial character trait is being slutty, and she’s also great with building things, and she never has to stop and say “NOW I REPENT MY SLUTTY WAYS!” and instead she hits on the hot guy idiots later, and ultimately, none of them care, it’s just a neutral character trait to them. I think this book is aimed at the extreme positions you find kids taking up as they encounter new ideas – the new feminists thinking girls are stupid and dumb for wearing makeup and the girls wearing makeup thinking that means they can’t be feminists.

  2. Gust says:
    I didn’t read this book until someone else reminded me because that cover was pretty goofy. But I’d like to see more books similar to this in YA.

    Also I agree with everything sliz225 said. I did like how off the wall the whole thing was in the end though.

    And what was up with Taylor ?

    1. Farla says:
      I have no idea what was with Taylor. I think the ending where she’s now Eve is meant as a good one, but the fact she seems to be still crazy makes me uncomfortable. If that’d finally worn off and sane her had decided she wanted to stay on the island I’d have felt much better about it. Or if the epilogue had them go back and she was there and friends with the natives and generally not abandoned forever on a island.
      1. Gust says:
        I dunno why the other girls wouldn’t at least be worried or regretful about leaving her behind on the island.
  3. actonthat says:
    This sounds like a Palanhiuk book in its over-the-top absurdity. Wonder if Bray started broadening her reading horizons.
  4. I finally got around to reading this! It was really good and I agree with basically everything people have said. I particularly liked the way the epilogue showed their futures and how they would grow up to become accomplished adults.

    The part that really resonated with me was the scene where the girls decide to stop apologizing for their opinions, because it made me realize that I talk the exact same way! I’m not entirely sure what to make of that. XD

    1. Act says:

      stop apologizing for their opinions, because it made me realize that I talk the exact same way

      You and Mr. Act both!

      1. Even more interesting. Is this is a common trait among feminist men, and is it correlation or causation?

        1. Roarke says:

          I wondered that myself. I think it also might be a Cult of Nice thing, too, because I’ve been doing the apologize-in-advance thing forever.

        2. CrazyEd says:
          I think it’s a common trait among members in groups that promote X thing (be it the cause of women, gays, minorities, the disabled, or what have you) who aren’t themselves X in general, not just feminist men. At least, it is in my experience. I actually think it comes from a pretty similar way of thinking that would cause the girls in this book to act like that, except in the case of feminist men, it’s a totally voluntary assocation with a group where they are not the dominant demographic rather than the perception of overarching social pressure. That voluntary association is probably the cause of the over-correction. The kind of man who calls himself feminist is not the kind of man who wants to inadvertently talk over women (even if the women he’s talking to don’t think he is).
        3. Act says:

          I suspect it’s part correlation, part causation — men who don’t fit into the patriarchal male ideal (soft-spoken, relatively passive, emotionally considerate) are more apt to look for reasons why they’re not ‘right’ in the same way as women, and as such are more likely to discover and relate to feminism.

          (One of the most interesting things I read RE: negative male socialization was in Why Does He Do That, about how the biggest predictor for how abusive behavior isn’t being abused, it’s seeing abuse, and a man generally treats women how his own father modelled behavior toward women. For Mr. Act, it’s clearly part genetics and part modeled behavior — he comes from a long line of quiet, soft-spoken Minnesotan farmers and no one was going to make him bold and brash, but his own father is also okay with his mom running the show, which means it was never ‘weird’ to him to see women taking charge. I also think a lot about how screwed over he’s been by toxic masculinity — he’s definitely been affected by the idea that he’s somehow less capable than he ‘should’ be. Anyway, that’s my psychoanalysis of my husband.)

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