Beauty Queens, by Libba Bray
A planeload of Miss Teen Dream contestants crash lands on a deserted island. Faced with giant snakes, quicksand and tsunami waves, can a dozen beauties survive?
Well, at least lack of food isn’t a problem. “Ohmigosh,” says Miss Mississippi. “I am going to be so superskinny by pageant time!”
We get a quick introduction to each of the girls from her “Miss Teen Dream Fun Facts Page!” Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, Miss Teen Dream Texas, was voted, “Most Likely to Rule the World in a Scary Way.” It is Taylor who takes charge and insists that the group continue to drill for the pageant, even as they struggle to stay alive.
The maniacal Taylor leads a diverse group of young women who hail from coast to coast. There’s Miss Nebraska, “with an accent as flat as a just-plowed field and huge, blue, anime-worthy eyes.” She’s afraid of her own passion. There’s Miss Michigan, who came straight to the pageant from Juvenile Detention, where she’d been sent after she stole a pack of Ho Hos from a Gas-It-N-Go. Miss Colorado and Miss California are the pageant’s two minority contestants. Between the two of them their hobbies include fencing, synchronized Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, classical piano, cello, Bollywood dancing, Indian cinema, meteorology, bowling, skiing and Nigerian drumming. They eye one another warily. No more than one minority ever makes it to the top five.
It turns out that these girls are pretty resourceful. They filter rainwater with an evening gown, high heeled shoes and a jewelry cleaning unit. They catch fish with straightening irons. Oh—and best of all—they salvage bits of the airplane to use as tanning reflectors!
Beneath their luscious hair and golden tans, each girl hides a secret. Why on earth did cynical Miss New Hampshire even want to be in a beauty pageant? Why is Miss Rhode Island so desperate to find her make-up case? And the island harbors a secret, as well. The beauty queens really aren’t alone. And even though Miss Texas says, “A girl’s best weapon is her smile,” this group is going to need more firepower than that to get off the island alive.
At times, this is a wacky, adventure story and a well-manicured satire of the beauty pageant world. At others, it is a story about a group of smart, talented girls who learn the beauty of being who they are, and not who the world wants them to be. If you are a fan of audiobooks, don’t miss this one. Bray reads it herself, and her accents are hysterical.
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Or check out the audiobook