Two sisters' reviews of Young Adult and Middle Grade books, inspired by their lovely library.
Beauty Queens is by far the best audiobook I’ve listened to since parting ways with Katherine Kellgren’s narration of the Bloody Jack series. It was to my extreme surprise and delight that I discovered it was narrated by none other than the author herself!
Genres: Young Adult, Humor, LGBT, Dystopia
Format: Audiobook, narrated by Libba Bray
Rating: 5 stars!
When a plane crash strands thirteen teen beauty contestants on a mysterious island, they struggle to survive, to get along with one another, to combat the island’s other diabolical occupants, and to learn their dance numbers in case they are rescued in time for the competition.
Beauty Queens is by far the best audiobook I’ve listened to since parting ways with Katherine Kellgren’s narration of the Bloody Jack series. It was to my extreme surprise and delight that I discovered it was narrated by none other than the author herself! I spent many hours last year researching audiobooks for a school project, and one of the topics I considered were the pros and cons of author-narrated novels. In many cases (often nonfiction), author-narrated books are preferred by listeners because the author knows the work like no other, and can emphasize the intended points perfectly. On the other hand, many authors are new to the world of audio story telling and cannot properly act out the voices. Libba Bray however is absolutely perfect — maintaining dozens of different character voices with accents from all over the United States and the world (including a dashing Cockney pirate and a spot-on Sarah Palin impression).
As for the book itself, Beauty Queens is a hilarious, meaningful blast of a read. With a huge cast of unique characters, Libba Bray diversifies a stereotypically un-diverse world: Teen Beauty Pageants. Among the contestants are girls of different races, sexualities, intelligences, and abilities, but all are equally able to work together to save themselves.
The plot is very well paced, and although clearly influenced by other island survival stories (Lord of the Flies, for one), entirely original and constantly surprising. My personal favorite part (minor spoiler ahead) is when a cast of reality show rock-star pirates maroon off the coast and join in the fray!
I spoke so favorable about Beauty Queens as I was reading it, Kate immediately paused her Bloody Jack audiobook to tune into Beauty Queens while baking. Her personal favorite quote from the book is from an interview with Ladybird Hope, who is voiced in a very Sarah Palin-esque way:
“Barry, let me give you a history lesson, Ladybird Hope-style. When the Vietnamese got kids hooked on drugs and we had to fight a war to stop it, did we give in? No! We said, “Crack is wack!” and we made sure everybody could have guns instead of drugs. Back before the British were our friends, and they had a mean king who made us pay too much tax instead of just having hot princes who go to nightclubs, they wanted to keep us from bringing freedom to the people of Mexico and making it a state, and George Washington had to chop down that cherry tree and write the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and that’s the reason we fought World War II, and why we keep fighting, because those freedom-hating people out there want to take away our right to be rich and good-lookin’ and have gated communities and designer sweatpants like the ones from my Ladybird Hope Don’t Sweat it line, and they want us all to learn to speak Muslim and let the lawyers stop us from teaching about Adam and Eve and that will be the day that every child gets left behind.”
Although I’ve read A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray before, I did not enjoy is nearly as much as this entirely different Libba Bray novel. And if Libba ever narrates another audiobook again, I’d stop everything to listen!
If you’re interested in learning more about this book and Libba’s narration process–plus watching a hilarious video!–click here.