Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens
I don’t know if the intention of Beauty Queens was to make it a Jersey Shore/Lost/Mean Girls/Toddlers & Tiaras parody- oh wait, the girls in the book are being filmed! Trashy reality TV show inside a book inside the hands of a girl who’s comparing it to real trashy reality TV shows – is this Inception?! This is exactly the kind of book that has me loving it one minute and hating it viciously the next. It’s definitely a roller coaster ride of emotions – the characters are all flamboyant and unique (and so TEENAGERY), and the situations they stumble into are just ridiculous. I still cringe every time I think about the book, and it’s been a few months since I read it, so… yeah.

Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Publication Date: May 24, 2011
Category: (Young Adult) Humor / Contemporary / Adventure


A plane carrying thirteen teen beauty contestants crash onto an island. Chaos and ridiculousness ensues. At the beginning they were like:

At the end they were like:

… and then they lived happily ever after.


I borrowed Beauty Queens from my Mercedes Lackey/Tamora Pierce-loving friend, so I had high expectations for this. Unfortunately, it seems that our contemporary fiction tastes don’t match up… but I’ll start with what I did like first! I liked how the book is structured like a TV show: a third-party narrative (“the sponsor”) sugarcoats the entire story, we get commercial breaks that advertise products like the Lady ‘Stache Off, and it really feels like the book itself was talking to you. I also seriously love the footnotes, which explain the fictional celebrities and events mentioned in the text. This book enjoys making fun of itself, and I like its attitude.

You look worried. Really, you should relax. Reading is a pleasurable activity and worrying is bad for your heart.

The characters are a whole ‘nother story. All the beauty contestants are so superficial and cringeworthy. They all basically started like this:

Obviously, as the story progresses, we learn more about each individual beauty contestant, and Miss New Hampshire eventually becomes Adina Greenberg, Miss Carolina becomes Shanti Singh, etc. Part of that is because everyone’s personality and backstory is just so dramatically different that it’s easy to keep them straight in my head. A lot of them had secrets that get exposed during some mishap that strengthens their friendship with the other girls, but those moments weren’t enough for me to sympathize with them.

The storyline is also just so overly dramatic. It’s like everything from every action-adventure-romcom-movie just got mushed together into one plot. We got pirates, spies, EVILLL people, sinister plots… for some reason, I get an Austin Powers vibe from this book, haha. And the worst part is that I can’t tell if Libba Bray made it this bad on purpose (I hope she did)!


Overall, Beauty Queens is full of sequins, secret agents, and kickass girls who still didn’t manage to capture my heart. I wanted to like this book, and sometimes I did… but most of the time, I cringed. But I’ll leave you with one of my favorite lines:

“I made a hut out of mud, palm fronds, and ripped-up swimwear. And walking in the sand is toning my calves while I work!”


6 thoughts on “Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

    • Ahhh, I’ve heard good things about A Great and Terrible Beauty, but from the synopsis, I’m not sure if I’d like it. 😛 Looking forward to hearing your thoughts when you get to Beauty Queens!

  1. I didn’t know the format was like that in this book and that sounds SO interesting!! The overly dramatic part, not so much. I have been wanting to try this because I liked The Diviners so much. I’m going to go into it thinking that it’s a parody though and maybe I’ll like it better 🙂

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