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Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Scholastic Press | May 24, 2011
       When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island's other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.
Teen beauty queens. A lost island. Mysteries and dangers. No access to email. And the spirit of fierce, feral competition that lives deep in the heart of every girl, a savage brutality that can only be revealed by a journey into the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Oh, the horror, the horror! Only funnier. With evening gowns. And a body count.
Honestly, this book was a glass of cold water in the drought that my reading life has been. This book captivated me, made me actually care about the characters, made me laugh, slapped me in the face, and forced me to love it. I'm not sure if I should recommend it, or warn you that once you read this book, no other book will ever be able to compare.

It's annoyingly difficult to find an LGBT+ book, despite the partially open-minded society we have today. Even when you find a book with an LGBT character, it's almost always just a sassy gay caricature. We've got a lesbian person, a bisexual person and a transgender person in this novel. I almost cried. Speaking of representation, there's an African character and an Indian character, as well as a disabled girl. Definitely a change from your typical all white, all straight cast.
In the YA field, it's hard to find books that aren't cookie-cutter; original plot-lines are rare, and even then, rarely are they actually interesting. Beauty Queens seems to transcend all established rules about YA novels, however, and provides an interesting and amusing mixture of drama, violence, romance and satire. It speaks out against the misogyny that has woven itself in the fabric of today's society, without trampling on any other movements. In fact, it even (albeit lightly) talks about racism in the media, the difficulties of disabled life that go beyond physical capability, transphobia, and the lacking sexual education in most places. And despite, or maybe because of the hyperawareness to all of these issues, the plot is not neglected. The social commentary does not detract from the excitement and adventure; the satirical nature in which the commentary is provided actually makes the book even funnier than it would be without it.

Now, of course, this book isn't exactly a light read. It's hard-hitting and takes time to get through, but every second is worth it. It touches on very controversial topics, and it purposefully sets up a universe that makes the reader angry, because you're supposed to get angry. The almost comedic unfairness that is set up is supposed to enrage you, and then make you step back and see how closely it resembles the real world, although in a much more subtle way. This isn't something to read between classes (although that's exactly what I did [whoops] before rereading it about ten times), you might need to sit down for a few hours. Trust me when I say, though, you'll be happy that you did. The only complaint I have about this book is that it's the only one of its kind.

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