A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Teens will need to do some critical thinking about beauty pageants, corporate America, and more. (Plus, they'll pick up a few creative uses for beauty supplies.)
Overall there's a strong message about learning to be comfortable with -- and proud of -- who you really are. Teen girls who've been forced to comply with rigid, often-unrealistic expectations for their looks and behavior learn to embrace their individual talents and differences and are empowered to stand up for and go after what they want. There are also important messages about relationships -- namely that you shouldn't change who you are for anyone and that the right person will love you for exactly that. That said, not all of the behavior in the book is positive.
Positive Role Models
The girls embody many teenage/pageant stereotypes (from sweet-but-dim "airheads" to smarter-but-more-manipulative schemers), but as the book unfolds, readers see that each character has her own personality, desires, talents, and strengths. The girls not only survive but thrive on the island, building shelters, finding food, and generally coming into their own as individuals rather than pageant contestants. The villains are presented as extremely broad stereotypes/caricatures, but the book is clearly playing that angle for humor.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty, though most of it isn't particularly graphic. The book opens with a plane crash that includes smoke, wreckage, screams, and dead bodies (including some that are charred/burned). Over the course of the book, other people are killed in a variety of colorful (and sometimes quite sudden) ways, from predatory snake attack to point-blank shootings and more. Frequent gun/weapons use -- including explosives and some defenses that the girls improvise with jungle resources and beauty supplies. One girl has an airline tray stuck in her forehead throughout the book; there are other injuries as well (some bloody), and one girl cuts herself deliberately (a friend intervenes before anything serious happens).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters make out, grope, and have sex (including implied oral sex and a reference to "dry-humping"); descriptions aren't detailed. Some nudity, including skinny dipping. Discussion of condoms/safe sex. One character previously performed "Christian pole dancing" as her pageant talent. The issue of sexual identity is a theme of the book; one character is transgendered, and anther is a lesbian. Mention of the girls' physical assets (particularly as advantages/disadvantages in pageant competition); references to being slutty or "wild" vs. ladylike or "pure." A sex tape figures in the plot but isn't described in detail.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Fairly frequent use of multiple forms of a variety of words, including "f--k," "s--t," "crap," "hell," "damn," "douche," "ass," "a--hole," "bitch," "oh my God," "freaking," "jerkwad," "OMG," "sucks," and more.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Many fake brand names/TV shows are mentioned, most meant to parody their real-life counterparts and satirize corporate America in general. A few mentions of real brands, including McDonald's, PowerPoint, Pong, and Whole Foods.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens drink (mostly rum) infrequently; some get quite drunk, while others decide not to have any at all (and aren't pressured by others to change their mind). When people eat a fruit that grows on the island, they have drug-like hallucinations and behave in a variety of strange (and sometimes dangerous) ways. Mentions of cigarettes/smoking, mostly by minor characters or bad guys. One character's father died in a drunk driving accident (brief reference).
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this Lost-meets-Clueless satire is packed with thought-provoking issues and characters -- as well as plenty of laughs directed at corporate America and the world of beauty pageants. The jungle-stranded teen girls at the heart of the story learn valuable lessons about believing in themselves and working together; they also have sex, drink, swear, and use weapons (sometimes killing people). Sexual orientation is a theme of the book -- one character is transgendered, and another is a lesbian; there's some same-sex kissing and making out. While the book is relentless about taking shots at everything from reality TV to politics to beauty products, its core themes of self-reliance, friendship, and girl power (aka feminism) shine through.
Is It Any Good?
Beauty Queens is the kind of book that might have you shaking your head as you giggle. Author Libba Bray skewers everything from trashy TV (you'll wish you could set your DVR for Patriot Daughters, about sexed-up Revolutionary War heroines) to world politics (Elvis-loving megalomaniac villain MoMo B. ChaCha is clearly a stand-in for North Korea's Kim Jong-il). But while nearly every aspect of the book is exaggerated for humor, the core characters and the lessons they learn about embracing themselves and one another (sometimes literally...) are valuable, especially for teen girls who might feel as boxed in by society's expectations for how they look and dress and behave as these characters do by the pageant lifestyle.
The satire is assisted by a well-paced story that moves along briskly; the twists may not be wholly unexpected (Petra's secret won't be too hard to guess, for one, and the arrival of more castaways isn't exactly a shocker), but you'll be too distracted laughing at the various footnotes and commercial breaks (for Corporation products, naturally) to notice. And when you're done laughing, the book's messages about acceptance, friendship, love, and girl power will linger as long as a good self-tanner.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.