Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Summer Read Worth Crashing on a Deserted Island...

Do you know about novelist Libba Bray? If you’ve been keeping track of YA lit lately, surely the name is familiar at least. Last year, she won the Prinz honor for her sarcastic and brilliant novel, Going Bovine. Loved that book. Giggled and snorted my way through her irreverent humor, wanted to grab a cup o’ joe with her characters (or at least eat pizza flavored Combos in the back seat while they road-tripped through the South).

So when I heard her new book was coming out, I pre-ordered it.

Here’s the deal. If you haven’t already gotten your hands on a copy, YOU MUST GO GET ONE RIGHT NOW. Do not wait. Do not even finish your coffee or soda or whatever you’re drinking as you read this. Just drop everything and GO GET THIS BOOK.

The cover of Beauty Queens, by itself, is enough of a reason to own a copy. I mean really. The torso of a bikini-clad female body with a bandolier of lipsticks slung from her shoulder to her hip? How fantastic is that? (Of course, the English Major in my head finds anything longer than it is wide…well, you know. Girl’s body covered in hilarious, little phallic symbols just cracked me up. But maybe I’m just a nut.)

Premise: An airplane full of beauty pageant contestants crashes on a deserted island.  Think Miss America meets LOST meets some reality show about teenage girls and their beauty products. Think sarcasm the likes of which Jonathan Swift would admire. Think Beauty Pageant Queen (eerily like a certain political candidate and big game hunter who doesn’t know her American history from a hole in the ground) and a corporate sponsor set on taking over the world.

There were scenes in this novel that make me literally crack up. Some I’ll be quoting for weeks to come. Some I read and could only wish that I, too, could someday write sentences that right.

I mean…any story that includes a teenage beauty pageant contestant airplane crash victim who walks around during the whole novel with part of a tray table sticking out of her forehead like the bill on a baseball cap…HILARIOUS. In a dark and sadistic way. But still – hilarious!

And wait til the bodacious pirates arrive! And the Corporate stooges! Who use lady’s hair remover product as explosives! There is a stuffed lemur dressed as a general. Teenage girls building trebuchets to launch high heels as deadly weapons. A maniacal Elvis impersonator. A beauty queen turned avenging super hero (complete with her own comic strips and side kick). A pool of piranhas and two heroes suspended over it with fraying ropes. Trans-sexual boy band members turned pageant contestants…the list goes on and on.

And out of all of this craziness comes a tale of girl power. Woman power. The rightness of our bodies, the true meaning of beauty, and the importance of believing in yourself.

Gulped it down in one sitting.

Thank you, Libba Bray, for your hilarious story and for your insanely right message to the girls (and boys) in the world about their worth. You ROCK.

(Cue pageant runway music. I’d flip my hair if it was long enough and strike a perfect ¾ pose, lifting one hand in a perfect beauty queen wave…)

You’re still reading this? STOP IT. Get your keys. Drive to the bookstore. Look for the bikini-clad woman with the lipsticks slung like rifle cartridges across her shoulder. Beauty Queens.

(P.S. I'm going to see if I can get Ms. Bray to answer a few interview questions, Carpe Keyboard style. Not sure she'll have time for little old me, but we'll give it a go! Cross your fingers!)


  1. Thanks for the post! I'm checking the BCCLS website right now to get a copy of Going Bovine! :)

  2. I agree! Just blogged about Beauty Queens too! (for me, I rambled on and on about her use of footnotes and the implications therin!) Loved it! Even more I think than Going Bovine. Literary brilliance AND beauty products used as weapons? What's not to like? And did you see her editor was David Levithan? Oh, yea, all my smart favorite authors involved in this one...

  3. I did see Mr. Smartypants D. Levithan was her editor. Think he might be mine? :)