Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Beauty Queens - by Libba Bray
In Beauty Queens Libba Bray takes a line that was fed to her by her editor: "a plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island..." and runs with it. With most of the pageant contestants dead, along with the the plane crew, and chaperones, the 14 girls who are left create their own story that is part "Lost", part Lord of the Flies, and part Pirates of Penzance, with just a trace of "Harry Potter" thrown in. Bray deftly develops the characters from girls who appear to be one-dimensional clones created by the Teen Dream Pageant into strong young women with dreams, intelligence, and chutzpah, who not only figure out a way to get food and fresh water, they vanquish their foe, the evil Corporation, which creates all the nasty products, and television shows that our teen heroines thought they are supposed to love.
There were apparently no libraries on what turned out to be a not-so-deserted island, but Bray finds three places to include them in her work. Mary Lou (a.k.a. Miss Nebraska) remembers planning to become a pirate queen with her sister Annie. Mary Lou and Annie give themselves tattoos with a blue sharpie with Mary Lou choosing "an ancient Celtic design she'd seen in a book from the library." Annie, agreeing that becoming pirate queens is a "very good plan," suggests ideas for their adventures by reading "from a copy of On the Road she'd checked out of a library." My favorite library part though, is the last one, which comes very near the end of the book. An angry crowd is shouting down the evil Ladybird Hope: "A bonfire billowed up. Some of the crowd tossed copies of Labybird's book into the fire while a librarian pleaded with them not to do that and grabbed a fire extinguisher." Bray includes a footnote to this that reads: "Really, being a librarian is a much more dangerous job than you realize." Readers of this blog know that if there is one thing I really can't stand it is censorship - even censorship of bad ideas from evil people. Libba, my friend, you just made yourself an official fan. Now I suppose I will have to read all your books. I've got a good start with Beauty Queens, and Going Bovine. Four more to go.