Beauty Queens – Libba Bray

beauty queensReading level: 5.3

Genre: Chick lit, survival, satire

ELL-Friendly: Yes

Library recommendation: High school (because of mature content)

This was my first experience with Libba Bray and I was not disappointed. I listened to the audio book which was read by Ms. Bray herself which may have had something to do with how much I loved it due to the voices she had for the characters and her natural ability to narrate. The way she made the voices of certain characters helped me love them (or not, in some cases), and I wonder how different my experience with the book would have been had I read a paper copy. Regardless, an excellent read.

There’s so much in this book: feminism, sexism, beauty, love, body image, family, friends, corporations, media… In some ways the book is true to life but at the same time outlandish enough to be fun yet deep. I also particularly liked the ending, where not everything was perfect – because our society isn’t perfect, and really that’s what the book is reflecting upon.

Beauty Queens, I am sad to say, has no place on my middle school bookshelf. Here’s why: there’s some swearing (okay, a lot) as well as a handful of F-bombs and references and descriptions of sex.

But wait – the language and sexuality bits are powerful and very deliberately written. The problem is that the language and sex is still there. Nobody expects beauty queens to swear like this! And the sexuality bits are about girls coming to love themselves while being in control. But if high school parents are going to panic about one scene in John Green’s Looking for Alaska, parents will have heart attacks over Beauty Queens. I don’t even know if I’d be okay with it in a high school class. I fully believe high schoolers to be mature enough to understand and appreciate these components, but I’m wary of parents. Parents might also flip out over the homosexual romance as well, but that’s a fight I’m willing to have.

Basically, it’s a truly wonderful, reflective book that high schoolers should read. Whether or not I want to risk getting in trouble for having teenagers read it is another question. But outside of school, kids (and adults), go for it.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Stephanie Allen
    Mar 13, 2013 @ 04:21:32

    I haven’t read this one yet (even though it’s been on my shelf forever…), but I have read all of Libba Bray’s. It’s been awhile, since I’ve read her Gemma Doyle trilogy (A Great and Terrible Beauty etc.) but I feel like that one might be okay for middle school, although I do remember one or two scenes that are more implied that might make me put it at a more mature middle school level. The Diviners I would save for high school, while Going Bovine might be another one of those that would be okay for high school students, just not in your classroom library (but it’s been awhile since I’ve read that one, too).


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