Audiobook Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty QueensTitle: Beauty Queens

Author: Libba Bray

Narrator: Libba Bray

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Release Date: May 24th, 2011

Source: Audiobook borrowed from the library

Reviewer: Sarah Andersen

Summary (From Goodreads): 

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness. Your tour guide? None other than Libba Bray, the hilarious, sensational, Printz Award-winning author of A Great and Terrible Beauty and Going Bovine. The result is a novel that will make you laugh, make you think, and make you never see beauty the same way again.

For my sophomores, we finished the school year reading Lord of the Flies. At one point during the unit I told them about Beauty Queens and admitted that I hadn’t read it, but that I knew it would be a good book to read if they were enjoying Lord of the Flies. I decided this summer that I needed to read Libba Bray’s satire even though I won’t be teaching sophomores again this coming school year.

I’ll be the first to admit that I was hesitant to read the actual book because of its length. The audio itself is over 14 hours long, but after listening to a sample and thinking about all the time I’d have to listen to an audiobook, I decided to stick with that format. And I couldn’t be more thankful! Libba Bray narrates Beauty Queens and I can’t imagine a better narrator for her book. I’ve listened to quite a few audiobooks over the past couple years and this is by far my favorite audio. I never questioned which character was speaking. In fact, I am still impressed by how well Bray changed her voice and accent for each character. Also, I’m usually not a fan of footnotes because they distract me, but listening to Bray read the footnotes was not only funny, but also usually a smooth transition between scenes in the story. The entire production of this audiobook was absolutely fantastic.

The story itself is SO SMART. Our focus in YA Lit 101 right now is gender relations and Beauty Queens definitely addresses that. Libba Bray has packed this book full of issues to consider when it comes to gender and our expectations. She raises so many questions. What do we really expect from our girls and women? What is considered beauty? What double standards exists for men and women and why do we allow them to continue? How much does the media influence our lives and expectations? Bray addresses all of these issues with wit and thoughtfulness. It’s obvious that she took her time writing this book and researching the issues.

I’ll admit that the ending is a bit campy and over the top, but it still fits the story and is so much fun. And despite Beauty Queens’ length, I would love to find a way to use this book in my classroom. It pairs well with Lord of the Flies and it also addresses enough issues to stand on its own. Because it’s a satire and so much fun to read, I think students will really enjoy reading this and take a lot away from it. There are so many articles and current issues that can be tied to this book and discussed. I think it would be interesting to come up with a variety of essential questions or themes, put students in groups that are each assigned a different essential question or theme, and have them read the book and focus on that one area. It would be exciting to occasionally have a full class discussion on each of the focal points to see what students think and how they respond to the different points.

I genuinely hope that you’ll read Beauty Queens and experience the audio. I can’t imagine reading it any other way. It may be long, but it’s worth your while and definitely worth adding to your classroom library.

This entry was posted in Book Review, Gender Relations, YALit 2.0 and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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