This one is better than Going Bovine, but I’m officially done reading Libba Bray. In Beauty Queens, a planeload of girls get stranded on a tropical island en route to a teen beauty contest. The island is the home base of some Secret Super Baddies, so first it’s Mean Girls: Survival Quest and then there’s an action movie.
I tried to like it, but I kept getting the feeling that this book was meant to be watched on TV, not read. The characters are very stylized, the one-liners very pithy, and the camera angle changes every 5 seconds. Likewise, when I listened to Going Bovine on audio, I kept thinking that maybe I would like it more if I were reading it on paper. Every format feels like the wrong one; both books have somehow managed to be less than the sum of their parts. Beauty Queens has plenty of good one-liners (“But it was Christian pole dancing!”), and you can see the grand intentions, yet nothing fits together. It’s a pile of construction materials and a blueprint for a skyscraper. For the time spent on this, a person could build a really nice house. With a trellised bean garden, even.
The cast is intentionally diverse in a way that only a white lady could imagine. Whoa, I just said something racist! This is because, though the baby lesbians are kind of cute, I can’t help but roll my eyes. Out of 12 girls, 2 are lesbianish, one’s transgendered, one’s a deaf girl whose passion is dancing (yes, Bray tries that hard), and two are professionally brown. The brown girls become BFF because obvs they have this huge thing in common: they hate being defined by their brownness! OMG!!! Since each character gets exactly one diversity characteristic, I suppose being Texan, being a blonde airhead, and having a sex drive are also “diversity characteristics.” The remaining two girls are just extras who don’t even get names until the end, when we discover that they have the same name, because everyone knows people with no diversity characteristics just don’t count.