Saturday, 6 August 2011

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Chemical Face Peel
I'm not sure I really like this picture, it doesn't really represent the type of book this actually is. And it's kind of embarrassing to whip out in public, Hey look at me! Look at the hot nekkid chick in a two piece, are those bullets? No they're lipsticks, cos she's a woman and women love the lipstick! So a bit too 'beach read chick lit' for my tastes but by no means the worst they could have gone with.

The Back, Sack and Crack
The Miss America Teen Dream pageant contestants are so super excited to be jetting off to the tropics for the chance to be crowned the ultimate teen! But one freak storm and a fatal crash later the few surviving girls find themselves stranded on a deserted island with no food, no shelter and no bronzer. But instead of freaking out these ladies get organised and discover their combined talents are essential to their survival. Talents that become very useful when it seems this island isn't so deserted after all, and I don't mean the hot reality TV Pirate boys who end up crashing the party. Elvis obsessed warlords, secret volcano bases and exploding lady hair remover must all be overcome if the girls are going to finally find out which of them will be crowned Miss Teen Dream.
First and foremost, this is a silly book. It most certainly does not at any point stop being silly and whenever you may feel like it has started to take itself a bit more seriously it'll fall on it's arse and blow a raspberry at you for thinking such a ridiculous thing. And I enjoyed it immensely.

Lets start with the surviving contestants, of which there are only a handful left after the crash, at first glance they're your run of the mill, fake eye lash wearing, glitter wafting, thong wielding image obsessed teens. The kind of airheads who, after something as horrific as a plane crash and the death of all their new friends, are worrying about their lack of moisturiser. But try no to judge these ladies too harshly, they may not be Bear Grylls but they certainly figure their situation out pretty sharpish and band together admirably in order to survive. In fact that was something I didn't miss in this book, the mean girl character, she has no place here and I'm glad of that. Oh there's still arguments and some of the girls definitely don't get on, but none of that bitchy evilness thats so prevalent in other teen books.
""What about this?" Miss New Mexico pointed to the tray lodged in her forehead. 
Taylor looked to Tiara and Brittani, who shurugged in unison. 
"We can't take it out. Not without surgery. I know my head wounds," Nicole confirmed. She smiled and gave a small wave. "Hi. Miss Colorado, the Centennial State."  
Miss New Mexico broke into a full-blown wail. The girls tried to comfort her, to no avail. 
"You know what you should do?" Petra said with new authority. "Bangs. So 1960's chic. You'd hardly notice the, um, the...addition." 
"Love bangs!" Mary Lou said.
"Miss Florida was the only one who had bangs and she's de- um, she's no longer participating in the pageant system. So you'd really stand out."
Miss New Mexico stared, dumbfounded,. "Stand out? Stand out! I have a freaking tray stuck in my forehead!" She broke into fresh sobs.
Taylor clapped for attention. "Miss New Mexico, let's not get all down in the bummer basement where the creepy things live. There are people in heathen China who don't even have airline trays. We have a lot to be grateful for."
You get to know a few of the girls really well and there's no way I could pick just one favorite, they were all great for entirely different reasons. There's Adina (New Hampshire) the snarky one who only entered the pageant to expose the harm she believes it does to young women (teenage undercover journalists we need more books about these guys!)  I felt the most affinity with Adina (probably like most readers she reminded me of my teenage self) she's smart but hasn't yet figured out that she doesn't know everything.
Then there's Mary Lou (Nebraska) I loved her so much, hers was the most heart wrenching backstory (which I won't spoil) but she totally overcomes the lies she was tricked into believing about herself and transforms in to this awesome wild woman!
And I most certainly cannot leave out the insane adventures of Miss "Do not Mess With" Texas Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins. A girl who can kill a man with her bare hands, fashion explosives out of pretty much anything and whose eventual descent into bat-shit-mental provides the book with some of it's best moments. And Petra with her BIG secret and Nicole battling against her own identity and Shanti who becomes the girl I most want to be best friends with. I genuinely liked them all.

One of the best things in this book are the footnotes, Ms Bray can wield the footnote like a weapon of comedy (much like the master footer himself Sir Terry Pratchett) nearly every other page was chock full of hilarious asides and tit bits fleshing out their world, which is basically just a sillier version of our own. And she doesn't stop at footnotes, we are also treated to transcripts of corporate adverts and mini bios of the contestants, all of which had me snorting with laughter (much to the dismay of my boyfriend who tried so hard to resist asking what was so funny).

All in all I really enjoyed this book, it was irreverent, ridiculous and just plain foolish but it made me laugh, a lot, and that makes it a worthwhile read as far as I'm concerned.