Plot: A plane full of beauty queens crash lands on a deserted island and the remaining girls must survive while they await rescue. What they don’t know is that the island is not deserted and help is not coming.
Beauty Queens is an amusing satire of consummerism and beauty culture. It can be occasionally heavy handed: Bray’s fake products and commercials range from silly/sarcastic to eye rollingly ridiculous and the villains are mwahahaha evil (complete with volcano lairs and inefficient death traps). On the whole it works but it should definitely be approached with a sense of humour.
What truly sets the novel apart are the girls themselves. It would have been easy for Bray to poke fun at the contestants as she does at the Corporation: make them vacuous beauty zombies unable to function without foundation. Instead she gives us 13 unique girls with their own passions, traumas and faults; each strong and talented in her own way. 13 girls who are more than capable of taking care of themselves. And this is far more effective at deconstructing the narrow view of femininity offered to women than a million jokes about beauty products. Bray shows us a wide variety of femininities that are nothing like the unattainable monolith of femininity that society thrusts on these girls but that are none the less valid. The ultimate message is that happiness comes from accepting yourself as you are rather than from seeking the approval of society. Meanwhile there is enough adventure, friendship and love to satisfy any Wild Girl (or Boy).
If that didn’t tempt you, I have three words for you: hot fake pirates.
And because I have friends who will apreciate this: “You can tell the story of how much you wish to be mother someday. People like to hear about your future plans for ovaries.” (p. 82) Don’t they ever.
Challenges: GLBT Challenge (5)