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Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – numbing my brain

Image This review is a little premature – I’m only two thirds of the way finished, but I’m at the point where I’ve said “the fuck?” about five thousand times and my head’s about to explode so I think I have just reason to be writing this.

I should have seen it coming. I mean, one glance at the cover and I feel as if I should have known I wasn’t going to be reading something deep and profound. I think on a psychological level, I was drawn to it because I needed a break from my university readings. I was also a little biased because I was a huge fan of Libba Bray years ago in high school (Great and Terrible Beauty Series *sigh, why is there still no movie for that!?!) and I was hoping to be swept away on a same sort of adventure.

The summary seemed pretty neat, too. A plane crash, an island, no help on the way for a group of strong, spirited women? Sounds like it should be good, right?

Yeah…. no.

Let me get something straight here. It’s clear that the novel is for a young, early teen, female audience but I don’t see how that’s an excuse for lackluster character growth, stock characters and an overly (and I’m not exaggerating here) didactic plot.

I’ll start with the plot first. It had soooo much potential but the story fell flat within one chapter. He’s an excerpt from page 8. The survivors of the plane crash are realizing that they are the few that didn’t die and are standing amongst the wreckage…

“I’m Brittani with an I,” said Miss Alabama. “I got my scouting badge in First Aid.”

“Ohmigosh, me too!” Tiara threw her arms around Brittani. “You’re so nice. If it’s not me, I hope you win.”

“No, I hope YOU win.”

…. The dialogue stays consistent throughout the novel. At least, it hasn’t changed much and I’m on page 208. You meet about fifteen different characters, all of whom have one chapter to develop at a time. By the time you’re introduced to a new character and another and another, you forget the name/ personality of the first character you read about and have no idea who she is when she shows up fifteen pages later.

There’s no cohesivenes either. The story is jumping all over the place. It’s as if Libba Bray wanted to combine five different story ideas into one and BAM: the novel was born. One part of the book is trying to show how females should be empowered whereas another section of the book has the girl drooling over a shirtless, random pirate man (it takes about a few hours for the girl to meet him and then open her legs for him). Then you have a coming out story, a snake battle, a secret organization working on the island and then all the backgrounds for all the characters. Don’t get me wrong… I love a book that’s complex, but this was all over the place

In addition, the blatant, overly didactic messages have been written into the plot so poorly that I found myself wanting to *facepalm by the end of almost every chapter. We get it, consumerism is bad and making the female body a commodity is even worse. The way Bray tries to show it, however, almost makes fun of feminism. You have characters finding their “inner strength” by saying lines that are emotionless and random like “I came out here to have an adventure and find myself” (page 188).  Also, the corporation’s head honcho is portrayed as this evil, self-absorbed monstrosity. But if the book is encouraging women to be independent and powerful then why is Bray scorning a character who is trying to encourage female empowerment, albeit in an unorthodox way? Is it because this woman doesn’t fit the “strong female’ mold? Doesn’t her own disapproval for “The Corporations” head honcho make her entire feminist message hypocritical?

The book did make me think, though. I think the “commercials” or “advertisements” throughout the chapters were a neat idea, but I didn’t understand the purpose. Was she trying to show how the world of commercialism affects us when we don’t even know it; on a subliminal level? Or was she trying to show how heavily brainwashed the girls were? I don’t know. My guess is as good as shit, at the moment.

I’ll finish the book, just because I hate leaving books unfinished but I needed to get all this word venom off my chest.

So that’s it for my review for Beauty Queens, and that’s also it for my first blog entry 😉 Cheers!

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