So…. I kind of have a love hate relationship with this book and I REALLY struggled with how to write this review. First of all I LOOOOVE Libba Bray. I loved the Gemma Doyle trilogy, it’s on my list of favorite books of all time. So… I really wanted to love everything about this book. I think if I had read more reviews and had a better idea what I was walking into, I would have loved it more… As it was, I only picked it up because it was by Libba Bray and had no idea what it was really about.
It was definitely worth the read, but I’m only giving it 3 stars.
Let’s break this down into what I disliked first and finish with what I liked.
What I Didn’t like about Beauty Queens:
The wit, humor and feminist message at times came across too heavy handed and too much. There was no subtly, at all. I know that part of the comedic effect of the book was to just put it all out there, but at times it was just so in your face that I was almost bruised by the heavy-handedness of it all.
There seemed to be a hostility towards morality and choosing to remain pure, as if the only reason a girl would choose to save sex is because society had forced her to do so. It almost implied that just because you have temptations and desires you should give into them every single time or you aren’t a feminist. I agree with the sentiment that the ideals for girl’s and boy’s purity is different, as if as a society we are okay with boys acting out in their urges and girls don’t have the right to do the same… I’ve heard this my entire life “Oh, all men cheat – it’s in their nature” or “He’s just sewing his seeds” (total BS, by the way).
For clarification, I am 100% for being comfortable in your body and with your sexuality. I think that is essential even (especially) if you want to save sex for marriage. There is a power that comes with embracing that side of yourself and opening up that conversation. We don’t talk about sexuality enough, especially with teenagers. I am also very strong and firm in my belief of body acceptance… but this didn’t feel like that to me, this felt different, almost angry.
Also, the Commercial Breaks and the Footnotes got old pretty quick. They were really funny at first… but when we got to footnote 25 and the 7th commercial break, I was over it. It seemed to break up the story way too much.
Here’s what I LOVED about the book:
Girls apologize way too much. “I’m sorry, I just think that…” “Dumb question, sorry, but…” etc. This is called out in an AWESOME dialogue! I love it! We need to never apologize unless we have a real reason to apologize for something – we messed up, we hurt someone, etc… but we never need to apologize for our thoughts or feelings or for being a girl. I seriously loved this section.
“Why do girls always feel like they have to apologize for giving an opinion or taking up space in the world? Have you ever noticed that?” Nicole asked. “You go on websites and some girl leaves a post and if it’s longer than three sentences or she’s expressing her thoughts about some topic, she usually ends with, ‘Sorry for the rant’ or ‘That may be dumb, but that’s what I think.”
It has my favorite quote ever:
There is some really funny quotes, dialogue and reference to reality TV, beauty products and the beauty expectations of girls. Here are some of my favorites:
“Because ‘You’re perfect just the way you are,’ is what your guidance counselor says. And she’s an alcoholic.”
“I hate this place,” Tiara whimpered. “It’s super creepy. Like a haunted Chuck E. Cheese’s where the games all want to kill you and you never get your pizza.”
“Helloooo.” Miss Ohio rolled her eyes. “I’m from the Buckeye State. We are serious about our tailgating parties. I can turn anything into a grill.”
“Taylor clapped three times for attention. “Ladies! Ladies! My stars! That’s enough. Now. We all know Miss Arkansas’s girls are fake, Miss Ohio’s easier than making cereal, and Miss Montana’s dress is something my blind meemaw would wear to bingo night.”
I love that they showed how clever and inventive girls can be. After they crash landed, they figured out how to get food, build shelter, get clean water, etc. Love a good story about girl power!
“Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are.”
There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping.
They were becoming.
I love the revelations that they had on the island:
“Sometimes I just want to go in a room and break things and scream. Like, it’s so much pressure all the time and if you get upset or angry, people say, ‘Are you on the rag of something?’ And it’s like I want to say, ‘No. I’m just pissed off right now. Can’t I just be pissed off? How come that’s not okay for me?’ Like my dad will say, ‘I can’t talk to you when you’re hysterical.’ And I’m totally not being hysterical! I’m just mad. And he’s the one losing it. But then I feel embarrassed anyway. So I slap on that smile and pretend everything’s okay even though it’s not.”
“The world expected girls to pluck and primp and put on heels. Meanwhile, boys dressed in rumpled T-shirts and baggy pants and misplace their combs, and yet you were suppose to fall at their feet? Unacceptable.”
“In school, they would tell you that life wouldn’t come to you; you had to go out and make it your own. But when it came to love, the message for girls seemed to be this: Don’t. Don’t go after what you want. Wait. Wait to be chosen, as if only in the eye of another could one truly find value. The message was confusing and infuriating. It was a shell game with no actual pea under the rapidly moving cups.”
I love that this book features a variety of characters; transgendered, lesbian, different races, and a hearing impaired girl… and addresses them in a way of understanding and in very honest way. (From what I know from friends who are any of those – this seems like a very real to life representation, which is very cool.)
“I’d say…” Petra crossed her legs, tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d say, I am too f**king fabulous for one gender. Oh, and can we please get rid of the cheesy dance numbers? It’s like torture step-ball-change.”
“I’d say I am not a race. I am an individual,” Nicole said.
Sosie moved her fingers gracefully, but no one understood. She waited for a moment. “I would say, learn to hear me in my own voice. I’m hearing impaired, not invisible.”
Overall, I’m glad I read it. I like the perspective it gave me and it felt very empowering. I would recommend the reading, but would definitely add the “take it with a grain of salt” cautionary warning.
Have you read it? What are your thoughts on the book?
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