Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
First off: Beauty Queens is hilarious. And sharp, sharp, sharp. You know those companies that can custom-create any fragrance you want, with any top, middle and bottom notes? This book is what you’d get if you extracted Thomas Pynchon, David Foster Wallace, Peggy Orenstein, Fran Lebowitz and E. Lockhart into a base of William Golding. It’s the story of what happens after a plane filled with teenage pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island. And it’s a black comedy about consumerism, craven politicians, reality television, advertising and marketing — but the less specific I get, the better.
The adult critic in me does think, “I wish Libba Bray were better able to murder her darlings.” Not the beauty queens (she kills plenty of them), but the tumble of jokes, footnotes, cultural references and asides — the book is so crammed with witty associations and allusions, and it’s got so many characters…oy, exhausting. Frenetic. Murdering your darlings means having the strength to prune, even when all the dense stuff you’ve got is awesome.
But then the adult critic in me yields to the parent in me. And the parent in me says, “I wish every teenage girl in America could read this book.” I hope the inevitable challenges and book bans will only bring more attention to Beauty Queens and get it into more hands. I LOVED THIS BOOK in a real, emotional, I-wish-I’d-had-this-as-a-teenager way. LOVED IT I TELL YOU.
Conservatives and haters — bring it.
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