Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – A Pageant

They’re a bunch of girls. How dangerous could they be?”

A plane full of beauty queen contestants crash on a deserted island. Also, fake pirates, an evil corporation (literally named “The Corporation”), illegal arms deals, murder, an Elvis-loving dictator, dancing, giant snakes, exploding hair remover, and a troop of diverse beauty queens who will discover the power within.

Sounds ridiculous. Sounds like a blast.

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After reading rave reviews on the audiobook, I decided to give the book, somewhat outside the range of my typical reads, a shot. I was not disappointed.

Bray is a clever, inventive author, and infuses a story that could have been silly and easily dismissed with wit, charm, and a whole cast of fully-realized characters. Although she seems to have worked from some sort of diversity checklist (Lesbian? Check. Transgender? Check. Person with disability? Check.  Add two POC and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes), the characters are rich and fully realized.

A lot of my warm feelings for this book are influenced by the narrative performance. Bray reads her own book, which I didn’t realize until after an hour or so of listening, and I was stunned at how excellent she was. Her voice is enough to give instant characterization, and the range of accents, from Cockney to Indian British to nasally Midwest to Valley Girl is fantastic. She also does an uncanny impression of one former Alaskan Governor/VP hopeful (thinly disguised as an ambitious ex-beauty queen) right down to the rambling mixed metaphors and “you betchas!” *gun fingers*

The book espouses a positive, feminist message about the power and abilities of women and the obstacles they face in society. Sometimes that message is blunter than my grandma’s machete, but it gets the job done. If you’re up for a good laugh and solid story, this is the book for you.

*I discovered while perusing my Amazon wish list that I added this book five years ago. Fate has a hand!

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