Well, well, well...what to say about Libba Bray's young adult novel, Beauty Queens? Tongue-in-cheek? Check. Laugh out loud at times? Check. Teens learning to be themselves? Check. Over the top? CHECK. Different? Oh, heck yeah, CHECK. Interesting? To say the least...check, check, check.
I first picked this novel up back in August and it didn't click at all. The exaggerated stereotypes of Miss Teen Dreamers seemed to be trying too hard and I just couldn't get interested in what these superficial bimbos were doing and saying. But when it started calling to me in late January, I figured it was time to give it another try; like many readers, sometimes it's all about the timing. And this time, it clicked. I was engaged in the stereotypes, the survival, the silliness...at no time did I ever take this book seriously as it explored humanity, beauty, sexuality, and pirates, but it was FUN. There were moments when I did get a little weary of the undercurrent of "learning to love yourself"-ness running throughout, but as these young women learned they could rely on themselves, I got very attached to them. And even Adina, who seemed to be in the pageant solely to destroy it, came around in a different way, and all of the girls recognized the good, the bad, and the ugly within.
So, yeah, the storyline is goofy but I could totally see this novel working as an Austin Powers type movie. Ms. Bray's wit is laugh out loud funny at times and even a bit poignant. Don't be fooled, though; these girls are open and up front once they get rolling, and nothing is off-limits (and hilariously so). I could have done without the "commercial breaks"--they really didn't add much and were often forced. But I would definitely recommend this very different, very layered book to those with the sense of humor to appreciate it. Don't take it too seriously, build your hut, decorate it, and observe the fun.