Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray book review

Published: May 24th, 2011 by Scholastic Press | Series: N/A | Length: 396 pages | Genre: YA, contemporary, satire | Source: Borrowed from the library | Possible Triggers: Racism, dieting/diet restriction, transphobia (not a lot, but it’s there a little), girl goes “crazy” (very stereotypical, inaccurate portrayal)

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Summary from Goodreads:

When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.

I’ve had Beauty Queens on my TBR for quite a few years now and really thought that I was going to enjoy it. It wasn’t terrible, but I have to admit, I found myself disappointed. It’s hard for me to tell if this is because I was in a bit of a slump while reading this or if I just didn’t like this book. So take this review with a grain of salt. But overall, it wasn’t as good as I was expecting.

The humor started off really strong and I found myself actually laughing out loud in the beginning. But as I got further into the story, the humor seemed to kind of fade away and the book just wasn’t as funny to me. I don’t know, maybe I just got bored with the same kind of humor over and over? This could definitely be a personal taste thing rather than an actual problem with the book, since I’ve seen a lot of reviews where people find it very funny throughout.

The pacing felt a little off to me as well. I understand that these girls are stranded on an island, so really what could have happened? But there’s a military compound on the island (this isn’t really a spoiler since you find out very early on) and I definitely feel like Bray could’ve used that to incorporate more action into the story. As it was, not a whole lot happens throughout much of the first half of the book and then towards the end, it seems like everything happens at once. I would’ve liked it to be a little more evenly paced.

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The characters were okay, but I didn’t really feel like I connected to them at all. I’m not sure why that is. Like I mentioned, I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time I was reading this, so that may be to blame for this particular complaint. I will say that even though I didn’t connect very strongly with any of them, they go through a lot of development throughout the story. Many of them start off as your stereotypical beauty pageant contestant, but we see a lot of them get more in touch with what they truly want to do with their lives. What I especially appreciated about this is that even though they realize that participating in beauty pageants isn’t what they really want to do with their time, the book doesn’t turn to shaming women who care about their beauty/appearance. It would’ve been really easy for Bray to take that route so I really liked that she chose not to.

The strongest part of this book is definitely the diversity in the characters. If you’ve seen other reviews of Beauty Queens, you’ve probably heard about this already since most reviewers seem to really rave about this aspect of the book (and admittedly, this is what made me interested in reading it). The cast is really diverse. We have girls of color, a trans girl, and there are girls interested in other girls (including one who admits she doesn’t really know what her sexuality is at this point which I LOVED). There’s also a Jewish character, but it’s only mentioned once in passing in the beginning of the book. Regardless, I feel like it’s pretty rare for a book to be so diverse and inclusive. The book also touches on issues relevant to these identities – racism, transphobia, etc.

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All in all, this book was fairly disappointing to me, but like I said, I can’t tell if it was the book’s fault or if it was just my reading slump. Because of that, this is probably not the fairest review I’ve ever written, haha. The book definitely still deserves a thumbs up for its inclusiveness and diversity and if that’s something you’re looking for, I’d recommend checking this out.


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8 thoughts on “Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

  1. I feel the same way about this book. LOVED the diversity, but I think there were just a few too many characters for me to connect with them. And I was kind of hoping for something more along the lines of Lord of the Flies. But I still love Libba Bray.

    Liked by 1 person

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