Book Review: Reading Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens

With the recent announcement of two men who thought it might be a good idea to try a Lord of the Flies with all women, book twitter blew up (and not in a good way. c’mon, guys, just use the google). In case everyone forgot, Libba Bray had already done this in 2011 with Beauty Queens (and to be fair, Anabel McDonald did this in 2002 with Be Nice). And so I immediately moved this book up on my TBR list to right now. (I mean, Roxane Gay even got in on the conversation and wrote this hilarious McSweeney’s post about “All Male Movie Remakes.”)

 Libba Bray herself wrote about her struggles with having the book turned in to a movie after it was optioned:

“But even when you do get up to bat, it’s still hard to have those female characters become real people. I saw a script in which every stereotype I tried to subvert in BQ was made real. There was an actual hair-pulling catfight. It’s hard to put into words exactly how I felt at that moment. But try, if you will, to imagine me with lasers coming out of my eyes while my internal organs became as the fires of Mordor. They didn’t get it. And they were legit trying to get it, which made it doubly painful. It wasn’t laziness; it was a fundamental tone deafness. An inability to comprehend and relate to women as real people.”

This article is a must-read, just as the book is. I love a good satire, and I also love a good satire that is a slapstick romp at times. The characters are diverse in many ways, and I identified with more than one of them.  I have now put all Libba Bray’s books on my TBR list.

I read Beauty Queens in two sittings (it would have been one, but I started reading it the weekend after school started at 7:30pm, and you know how that goes, I was asleep with a book on my face by 8:30pm). I laughed out loud, read my husband certain lines, shook my head grimly at times, and at other points wrote down favorite lines.

If I were still teaching The Lord of the Flies I would definitely be doing something to pair Beauty Queens with it, and talk about how books are always social commentary of the time in which they were written. Unfortunately, many of the issues in Beauty Queens are still issues. Also unfortunately for people who also might want to teach with this, there’s lots of language that might be considered inappropriate for schools.

So if you need the kind of book you can sink in to and read non-stop, or if you need a break from all the lesson planning and grading (welcome back to the school year), or if you just want a funny book you can laugh out loud to and then immediately want to force all your friends to read, check out Beauty Queens.

Posted by Kate, PCTELA blog editor

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Book Review: Reading Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens

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