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BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray

From bestselling, Printz Award-winning author Libba Bray, the story of a plane of beauty pageant contestants that crashes on a desert island. Teen beauty queens. A "Lost"-like island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to emall. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives underground in girls, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.

Grades 8-12. When a plane carrying contestants for the Miss Teen Dream pageant crashes on a remote island, the survivors face greater challenges than just finding food, shelter, and missing cosmetics. Unbeknownst to the girls, the island is not deserted: its volcano houses a secret U.S.-government enclave involved in illegal weapons trading, and the cast grows further after some studly reality-TV pirates arrive on the scene. Outlandish? Yes. And there are characters that veer toward stereotype: take-charge Miss Texas, incognito-journalist Miss New Hampshire, and transgender Miss Rhode Island (who has a surprise under her sash), among others. But rather than letting the plot reel out of control, Bray, author of the Printz Award–winning Going Bovine (2009), spins this hilarious romp into an examination of femininity and feminism, sex and sexuality. And while they await rescue, the girls discover moving truths about themselves. The text is interspersed with commercial breaks, contestant fact sheets, footnotes, radio broadcasts, and spoofs of reality TV and celebrity status, all of which add to the appeal of this sure-to-be popular title.
Horn Book (July/August, 2011)

It's The Lord of the Flies with sparkle and hair-straightening irons. Except here, the castaways, teen beauty pageant contestants whose plane has crashed en route to competition, don't degenerate into savagery; they use their "can-do" Miss Teen Dream spirit to survive -- even thrive -- on what they assume is a deserted island. (Actually, it's home to a government conspiracy.) Oh, and the straightening irons? They use those to catch fish. At first, Bray's novel seems to be simply a smart, wickedly funny send-up of pageant culture. Of course Miss Teen Dream Texas emerges early on as the self-proclaimed leader. She plans for the girls to find food and shelter while still practicing their dance routines and interview skills because, as she says, "in the pageant of life, a girl picks up fallen sequins and turns them into a brand-new dress of awesome." Yet though the jokes fly thick as unplucked brows, Bray also goes deeper into each character to show how our culture's insidious focus on female perfection keeps girls from being who they are. Away from the media images generated by The Corporation (satirical Corporation-run "commercial breaks" appear throughout), a transgender contestant finds love with a reality TV pirate while a girl whose family is from India gets to drop the grateful-immigrant act the judges expect. Escaping civilization -- the best thing that could happen to a teenage girl? Sure looks that way. christine m. heppermann
Horn Book starred (September, 2011)

Teen beauty pageant contestants whose plane has crashed use their "can-do" spirit to survive on what they assume is a deserted island. (Actually, it's home to a government conspiracy.) The book is a smart, wickedly funny send-up of pageant culture; Bray also goes deeper to show how our culture's insidious focus on female perfection keeps girls from being who they are.
Kirkus Reviews (April 15, 2011)

This inventive satire mocks celebrity culture while celebrating the resilience of teen girls. Printz Award-winning author Bray (Going Bovine, 2009) plunges into cultural criticism with her latest teen novel. The plane carrying the 50 Miss Teen Dream Pageant contestants crashes on a remote desert island, and the survivors must channel the skills that made them successful on runways to keep themselves alive until they can be rescued. ("From Ladybird Hope'sI'm Perfect and You Can Be Too, Chapter Three: 'A lady's quick thinking can save a bad situation.' She was talking about putting nail polish on a runner in your hose, but I think the same rule applies here.") Unfortunately, their sponsor decides there is better press in avenging their deaths than in mounting a rescue and sets that scenario in motion. An encounter with the stars of a pirate-themed reality-TV show highlights their vulnerability. By now, though, genuine survival skills have been honed, and the teens foil the dastardly plot. While the foibles of today's media/celebrity/political culture are the clear target of this stinging satire, the teen cast is funny and endearing in its own right. As the story unfolds, each girl's back story and actions under duress reveal a unique character. The humor is both dark and madcap, including footnote asides and commercial scripts that keep the laughs coming.(Fiction. 14 & up)
Publishers Weekly (March 21, 2011)

Bray follows her Printz Award-winner, Going Bovine, with an only slightly less absurd premise in this out-there satire about a planeload of teen beauty queens who crash onto a (not so) deserted island. Lord of the Flies with an evening gown competition, anyone? Led by the indefatigable Miss Texas, Taylor Rene Krystal Hawkins, the 14 surviving contestants must rely on competitive moxie. Despite the large cast, Bray makes the Misses distinctive, though each is more a stand-in for a particular brand of diversity than a fully dimensional teenager (one's black, one's deaf, one's gay, one is a boy in the process of becoming a girl). Poor Miss New Mexico stands out because she has a serving tray embedded in her forehead. ("Bangs are the new black!") Halfway through the ordeal, a boat full of shirtless, reality TV pirates runs aground, allowing for some smoking hot scenes. Fun footnotes, contestant profiles, and scripted commercial breaks are interspersed. There's a lot of message, but every time the story veers toward sermonizing, Bray corrects with another crack about our media-saturated, appearance-obsessed, consumer-driven society. Ages 13-up. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
School Library Journal (July 1, 2011)

Gr 9 Up-Whip-smart social commentary, surreal plot elements, and feminist themes come together in this bizarre and brilliant story about a group of beauty pageant contestants stranded on a remote island after a plane crash. Undaunted by disaster, the teens hone their survival skills as they practice dance routines and pageant interviews, while a ruthless corporation secretly plans to use them as pawns in an arms deal with an insane dictator. Beneath an entertaining veneer of witty dialogue and comic absurdity lies a thought-provoking exploration of society's expectations for how young women should look, feel, think, and act. Wry footnotes lampoon the media and pop culture, while hilariously scripted "commercial breaks" interrupt the narrative, leading readers to question the pervasiveness of self-improvement products that make consumers feel inadequate. Using multiple points of view to tell the story, Bray rises admirably to the challenge of developing a large cast of characters. Each pageant contestant possesses much more than surface-level beauty, and even the most stereotypically ditzy girl offers unique and unexpected strength. Readers from all backgrounds will identify with the representation of various religions, ethnicities, and sexual orientations among the characters. Occasional strong language and a frank approach to sex may make this novel most appropriate for older teens. The empowering theme of self-acceptance and the affirming message that women should not underestimate themselves or others makes this novel a potentially life-changing book for budding feminists.-Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.