Book Review: Beauty Queens

Beauty Queens
Narrated By: Libba Bray
Format: Audiobook
Published By: Scholastic Audio Books
Publication Date: May 2011
Length: 14 hours, 34 minutes
Buy it at Amazon or IndieBound
Source: Library
Audience: Young Adult

I am not sure that I can truly craft a review worthy of Libba Bray's greatness, but please accept this humble attempt. I was so excited to read this book after falling in love with Bray's writing in Going Bovine. I knew that I could expect to find the same flawless prose, wit, and satire lurking within the pages of Beauty Queens, but I didn't bargain on finding a book to add to my all times favorites list. This book is a triumph full of satire, irony, symbolism, and humor. The structure of the book is creative as it not only tells the story, but is also littered with footnotes, commercials, and other asides. In the audio format, these deviations from the typical flow are extremely well done and include music and other sound effects. It was very clear to me as a listener whenever the story was going to go off track, however, I am curious to see how that would play out for readers who have only the text in front of them.

Another aspect that I loved about the audio version of this book was Bray's narration. The character voices were fun and varied based on who was speaking. I loved that Bray was the one to voice the book. Who would know the characters and plot better than the person that created them? I never had to wonder if the narrator was truly capturing the spirit and intent of the characters with their voice. I was also impressed with the range of Bray's vocal abilities. I often forgot that it was just one woman narrating the book. Plus, if you know anything about Libba Bray - the woman is HILARIOUS! People thought I had lost my mind as I was laughing hysterically during rush hour traffic.

Furthermore, I loved the plot of this one. I assumed mixing Bray's sense of humor with a plane load of beauty queens would result in entertaining reading, but I also liked all of the satire and symbolism. I think this book would make a great read for teens and adults alike. It really made me think about how I live my life and what drives American society. Aside from the consumerism, I also think its important to have strong characters of alternate lifestyles present in YA fiction. Kids need to see people like them reflected in the books they read. Often characters can serve as positive role models when nobody from reality can serve that purpose. In addition, I think Bray does a fabulous job of calling attention to the race issues that still lurk within American culture and society. Each of the girls in this book has a lesson to teach readers as she evolves from the girl who boarded the plane to the woman who leaves the island. Finally, the whole gender equality issue certainly lives at the forefront of this novel. I found it to be empowering to watch these girls become who they wanted to be - not who society told them they should be. 

I honestly don't think I can put into words how much I loved this book. I rarely buy audiobooks because of the expense and I rarely relisten to them. However, this is one I will be purchasing. I could see myself relistening to it whenever I need a dose of humor or girl power. I'm also planning to purchase a hard copy for my bookshelf - mainly because I want to see how certain elements of the book played out in print form. This book has firmly entrenched Libba Bray in my favorite authors list. I can't wait to see what she will give readers next.

One Last Gripe: I wasn't happy with Taylor's ending.

My Favorite Thing About This Book: Everything - I LOVED it!

First Sentence: This book begins with a plane crash.

Favorite Character: This is hard. I ended up loving all the girls, but I suppose my favorite was Mary Lou.

Least Favorite Character: Harris

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What's a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program--or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan--or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.


  1. I love Libba Bray! This book sounds hilarious and your review made me want to get the audio version too. Great review!

  2. Great review! I've been really excited about this book, but right now, the only format I can get it in is as an audiobook. I don't listen to audiobooks, because I have a hard time finding good narrators and because I just can't focus on them. But, it sounds like Beauty Queens is the perfect audiobook to start with, so I might check it out after all.

  3. I have seen some mixed reviews of this book, but I love Libba Bray's writing so much that I still can't wait to read it. It was really nice to see a positive review of it. Your review really makes me want to go snag a copy!

  4. @Kelly - This would be a great audiobook for you. I have trouble getting through some of them, but this one is really well done and highly entertaining.

  5. Haha I'm glad you liked this one! Reading it had me giggling but I can only imagine listening to the characters and commercials would be even better lol.

  6. I have this one on my kindle and while I didn't like the Gemma Doyle books much I cannot wait to read this one!! Great review! I'm putting it closer to the top of my TBR pile :)

  7. @Laura - It was well worth listening to the audio. I loved how Libba did the voice of Miss Mississippi, lol.

    @Carole - I read the first Gemma Doyle book and didn't love it. Libba's writing was great, but the story didn't appeal to me so I never finished the series. However, I really love this one and Going Bovine. They are so different from the Gemma books. I honestly wasn't a huge Bray fan until Going Bovine, but now I am hooked.

  8. Love the book too, and like you, can't judge right her books, all of them are pretty amazing, she writes about amazing woman, I want listen the audiobook, sounds very fun


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