Beauty Queens is not a subtle book. The cover was my first clue about that. But I have never had so much fun being hit over the head as I did while reading an ARC of Libba Bray's latest YA novel, out in May.
A plane carrying the contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant, a competition run by The Corporation (which owns everything), crashes on a deserted island. Many among the handful of surviving Teen Dreamers take a while to stop thinking about things like lipstick and start thinking about survival, and for a bit, it looks like beauty queens are as dumb as we're supposed to think they look.
They're not. They're also not all backbiters who will do anything to win a pageant (which remains very much on the metaphorical radar even as Miss New Mexico has a literal airplane tray lodged in her forehead). They don't fit the stereotypes for their respective cultures; they just satirize them. They're not all straight, and even the ones who are don't necessarily relate to boys the way one might expect. (Yes, boys show up, and yes, it takes more than that to get the girls off the island.)
The footnotes are hilarious. The everything's hilarious, even when it's making us feel sad about the expectations The Corporation and the world it inhabits has put on these girls. Beauty Queens has a lot to say, beyond the (I hope) obvious point that not all women have the same strengths, weaknesses, interests, or priorities.
Like "beware of exploding hair remover."