A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
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What's the story?
When their plane crashes en route to an exotic Miss Teen Dream pageant location, the surviving teen BEAUTY QUEENS must fend for themselves in a jungle full of snakes ... both animal and human. Because it just so happens that The Corporation -- a fictional megacompany responsible for everything from feminine hygiene products to reality shows like Captains Bodacious -- has already set up shop on the same island, and the girls' arrival could throw a serious wrench into plans to (naturally) take over the world. But all that cynical Adina, resourceful Taylor, earnest Tiara, scheming Shanti, statuesque Petra, and the rest of the Teen Dreamers know is that they have to survive -- and so they do. Working together to build shelter, catch fish, and set up defenses -- all while keeping their pageant skills sharp -- the girls quickly learn that there may be more to life than winning their next crown.
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about beauty pageants. What is the book saying about them and the way they impact contestants? Do you agree? How are pageants typically portrayed in the media?
What is the purpose of satire? Is it just to make you laugh, or is there more to it? What topics is Beauty Queens satirizing? Do you have to agree with the book's point of view to find it funny?
What messages is the book sending about teen relationships? Parents, talk to your teens about your own family's values regarding sex and dating.
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