Sunday, March 23, 2014

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

It's a little late in the month, but I just found out that March is Women's History Month.  Yay!  March 8th, specifically, but if you forgot to mark your calendar this time around it isn't too late to celebrate women everywhere.  I'll be honoring women with the best female empowerment book I've read--Libba Bray's Beauty Queens.
This book begins with a plane crash.  Actually, that's not quite correct--it kicks off with a Word From Your Sponsor, a Corporation with serious world domination plans and a mysterious figurehead.  The word, with its creepy emphasis on happiness and a very specific type of beauty, sets the tone for the book--or rather, it sets the tone for the very oppression that the main characters spend the book shaking off.
The fourteen aspiring Miss Teen Dreams who survive the crash must learn how to survive on the island they've landed on.  As beauty queens--really, as attractive teenage girls--they've never been encouraged to think for themselves, although their specific skill set does come in handy (think stiletto catapults and makeup splat guns). The girls reveal themselves and their struggles as their time on the island stretches, and they discover that the island is not as uninhabited as it seems.  Beauty Queens contains fourteen incredible beauty queens with completely unique personalities, reality TV pirates, very sinister politicians and features an unforgettably different beauty pageant as the culminating scene.
As well as beautiful, lyrical and imagery rich writing, Beauty Queens boasts theme after cleverly woven theme.  Bray encourages us to think about the control that companies have over our life, and the danger of monopolies and corruption.  She shows that, instead of a parade of cliched, familiar characters, women deserve new and different media representation.  This book heralds individuality above all.  Beauty Queens takes a commonly cliched type of woman and shows that everyone has unique sides to them that make them special, and that cookie-cutter people and personalities are an unhealthy and unrealistic goal.   What better way to celebrate women and kickstart spring than a message of liberation?

There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping. 

They were becoming. 

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