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Tina's Reading Books

Genre fiction lover:  Romance, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Urban Fantasy

Beauty Queens - Libba Bray The premise of a group of beauty queens who crash land on a deserted island and what happens thereafter is an elegantly simple one. It also has a metric ton of plot & characterization possibilities. I bet if you gave that basic outline to ten different authors, you'd get ten very different books.

This author took the premise and made it a collage of LOST, Gilligan's Island, Austin Powers, a touch of Lord of the Flies, and a bit of Joseph Conrad all spackled together with essence of Not Another Teen Movie.

Fifteen of the 50 contestants survive the plane crash. The pilot, the crew, the production company and all the rest of the girls die a fiery death.

Obviously the first order of business for the survivors (after getting over the shock) is to figure out how to stay alive on the island while awaiting rescue. This does occur, but something else occurs as well: satire in the form of a series of nude-nudge, wink-wink, blink-or-you'll miss them references to pop culture along with archly comic footnotes that explain said references.

It is this part --- the broad comedy (which wasn't clever or sly enough to be satire, imo,) --- that brought the rating of the book down for me. In addition there was an unnecessary sub-plot about arms-dealing with an offensive banana republic type dictator named MoMo B ChaCha and a thinly veiled Sarah Palin-esque character named LadyBird Hope that dragged the book into the areas of the ridiculous.

All that aside, I really liked the parts of the book that dealt with the girls coming to terms with their situation and how they bonded over time. The book actually did a good job of exploring ideas about issues of acceptance, gender roles in society, the nature of fame and celebrity, and also about how big a role appearance plays in almost every area of our lives. Yeah, sure, the girls were all a bit card-boardy (the dumb southern blondes, the big-haired Texan whose daddy taught her to hunt, the cynical North-easterner whose sole purpose in joining the pageant is to set out to expose the superficiality of it, the black girl whose identity is all tied up in her race etc. etc.) but I didn't mind that so much because the author actually fleshed them out and made the stereotypes work in the narrative of the story.

And while I found the footnoting of the fictionalized-but-obvious cultural references a bit too precious for my taste, a few of them were a quite spot-on in their cynical observations. And I did enjoy reading each girl's pageant questionnaire.

I was also amused by the Gilligan's Island nature of the where the girls were. All sorts of people managed to get on the island but the girls had no way of getting off. I also enjoyed more than I thought I would the sojourn of the "Pirates" on island. At first I rolled my eyes when they showed up, but they managed to amuse me quite a bit.

Overall I did enjoy the book. It was a quick read that went down really easily. I just thought the book could have been more than it was.