There are certain authors who I love and will always love no matter what they write. I will buy anything they write and read it and love it. I will defend The Casual Vacancy to my death, because I love J.K. Rowling (obviously), and A Widow for One Year felt a little bit rambling but I powered through and I talked myself into enjoying it because I love John Irving.
All of this is to say that Libba Bray is one of those authors for me. I love Libba Bray. She will forever be an author who shaped me and my bookshelf reflects that with every book she’s written. Book #65 of the year was Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, so I obviously loved it.
It’s one of the most over-the-top young adult books I’ve ever read, but it wasn’t over-the-top just for the sake of being over-the-top, which made it good. The book is about contestants for the Miss Teen Dream Pageant, and the 13 who survive a deadly plane crash and are forced to thrive, stranded on this desert island that ends up being a hideout for the most evil entity of capitalistic greed.
It takes place in a perfect parody of modern America, where one group simply called “The Corporation” rules and controls everything, from media output to the U.S. presidency. Throughout the book, there are wonderfully scattered chapters of excerpts from The Corporation product commercials, and Bray inserts satirical footnotes plugging The Corporation TV shows, movies, music, etc.
So yeah, the whole book is very over-the-top, but at the same time I started to really care about these characters as they gradually find themselves and find out what they are capable of when they’re away from the societal pressures placed on all girls. In that way, it’s a pretty beautiful story.
I bought this book at the Brooklyn Book Festival, where I was able to meet Libba Bray (!!!!) I think I made a fool of myself, awkwardly babbling about how much I love her without actually saying that I love her, because that’s probably not socially acceptable and we just met, but she signed four of my books and I will cherish them forever.
Also, she lives in Brooklyn and I just moved to Brooklyn so… the stars are aligning?
This accidentally turned into a post about how much I love Libba Bray, oops, but for those familiar with her wit and deadpan sense of humor, you’ll find it multiplied by at least 10 in Beauty Queens. I recommend it strongly, as I recommend anything by Libba Bray.
P.S. In my copy of The Sweet Far Thing, she signed “sorry about Kartik :(” I’ve never been so happy about such a heartbreaking note in my life. ◊
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. They were.”
– page 177