May 24th, 2013
You know how some books just hit you hard? Maybe you have a book that gives you goosebumps every time you read it, or makes you laugh, or cry (or both!)….those books are the ones you remember, recommend, and pass on. Each of us at GitS have our favorite hard-hitting books, but we all agree that Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, with its scathing commentary on today’s beauty industry and antics so funny you’ll cry, is a book that smacks you like a Mac truck.
Why is that? Personally, I think Beauty Queens masterfully delves into self-image and the over-sexualization of girls, which are not easy issues to discuss in our society. We’ve seen the stories about teens being bullied by peers on the Internet and then doing something drastic to stop the torment. We’ve seen and read stories about girls who starve themselves to achieve a crazy ideal that is plastered all over our media and advertising. And yet we still expect girls to be pretty and proper and prim, but sexy and appealing. It’s honestly disturbing, and as someone who was in high school only a decade ago, Beauty Queens spoke to that small part of my inner teenager who struggled with image and weight. I now work with teens at my library and I see these funny, smart, very individual teenagers just trying to figure it all out. And they’re my heroes, because they deal with so much more now through the Internet and social media.
But at the same time, Libba Bray also weaves humor and pathos, encouraging the readers to laugh with these girls as they struggle to survive and figure out who they are. In the hands of someone else, this type of writing could come off as patronizing; but Libba makes us care about these girls. She makes us care about all of them and see them as individuals, then teenagers, then young women. I love this book and I encourage any teenager, male or female, that I meet to read it.
Beauty Queens is this great dynamic book that strips away all the conventional trappings of what beauty is, and it’s written in a “hardcore good” type of way. However, the thing I like the most about this book is its origins. This book was not Libba Bray’s idea. That’s right; this was the brain child of David Levithan and a fellow co-worker. They gave her the premise of a plane full of beauty contestants that survive a plane crash – she went from there and created an amazing book in the process.
In this hilarious interview (http://www.omnivoracious.com/2011/04/ya-wednesday-a-conversation-between-libba-bray-and-libba-bray.html) Libba conducted with herself (she’s cool like that) she equates Beauty Queens as the feminist version of Lord of the Flies, and says of her beauty queens, “without the expectations and pressures of civilization, they have the freedom to be themselves—or at least to start figuring out who they might be.” This seed of an idea planted by David to Libba could have taken many different forms, yet she went and wrote this brilliant book on beauty obsession.
Think how different it could have been had they asked someone else to write it?
I think that my audiobook review kind of sums it up -see link here but the biggest reason out of all of them: It has given me heart in that I can raise a teenage girl (current age, 14 months) because we can read this book together and discuss the end message -girls rock, don’t apologize or demean yourself because corporations attempt to sell a problematic image of what girls/women should be. Thank you for giving me a book that says everything I want to tell my daughter (and the high school girls I teach) and also be hysterically awesome.
So now that we’ve confessed – did you read Beauty Queens and love it? Tell us why!