Wednesday, March 9, 2011

THE Book of THE Summer. (Don't let the cover or title discourage you)

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Scholastic, May 24th, 2011

So I didn't get to read Beauty Queens as quickly as I wanted, making the fatal mistake of letting someone else know what I was reading. Thrilled by the first page (a brief message from the corporation) I began reading the book aloud to my boyfriend, thinking I'd stop at the first chapter and continue reading to myself. The problem was, he wouldn't let me stop reading. So we've now spent two weekends taking turns reading aloud and have finished the book. My new dare is for someone to read the message from the corporation and then put the book down and walk away; I don't think it can be done. I also think the possible audience for Libba's novel goes beyond teens and adult women- I intend to purchase a copy as a 21st birthday present to my brother and my boyfriend (background in neuroscience- he won't pick up fiction on his own) has already told me to bring home a first edition for him. Basically, Beauty Queens is the book of the summer for teens plus- regardless of their gender.

I enjoyed Going Bovine, but Beauty Queens is a tighter book, the satire more finely honed and it doesn't lag near the end the way Going Bovine does. The social satire and blunt look at stereotypes makes this a strong choice for bookclubs. From Shanti and Nicole discussing how they are each others' competition because "you have to have one candidate of color in the top ten," to being a transsexual, to trying to bring down the competition from the inside, to pressures from parents and repressed feelings of sexuality, Beauty Queens covers quite the spectrum of topics facing teens today. But what really sets Beauty Queens apart from any other book trying to explore these issues is the humor and social satire Libba expertly employs. Any mention of the Corporation is hysterical, yet also terrifyingly realistic (reminding me of Jasper Fforde's Goliath Corporation: for all you'll ever need. Ever.*). Issues, tempered by humor, combine with action-paced sequences and a dollop of all varieties of romance to create a summer blockbuster of a book.**

*And what do you hand someone after you'd got them wowed by Beauty Queens? Good Omens, Douglas Adams, or Jasper Fforde.
**I've no doubts that this will be a movie (released by the corporation, complete with subliminal messages urging the audience to purchase popcorn and clothing from Ladybird's clothing line).

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