Beauty Queens (Audio CD)Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens is equally awesome and awful. Awesome: the premise of a plane full of beauty pageant contestants crashing on a deserted (or is it?) island, and a narrative structure full of commercial breaks, footnotes explaining fictional pop-culture references, and Libba Bray’s wicked sense of humor.

Not as awesome is the (thin and ridiculous) plot that sags under the weight of too much time spent on flat characters and shoved-in-your-face issues. While flat characters and a ridiculous plot might be exactly what the book calls for, they can’t sustain the bloat of the book. What is laughing-so-hard-you-cry funny can quickly turn to disinterest and annoyance when there’s just too much of everything.

Libba Bray narrates the book herself, which is mostly fantastic (not so much her accents, which she does enthusiastically but terribly). The humor comes across perfect in her voice, and the sound effects that accompany the extras (footnotes, commercials, etc.) help distinguish them, along with her incredible ranges of inflections. A small detail that I particularly loved were the introductions to each disc (I’m not sure what form these take, if any, in the print version) – a high, ditzy voice saying things like “Beauty Queens, disc 5. Oh my gosh, now I’ve used all the fingers on one hand!” or “Beauty Queens, disc 12. I got my period when I was 12…I think.”

In short, if one can be short when talking about a book like Beauty Queens, you might think this is the best book ever. Or you might throw it down in disgust. Or you might be constantly tempted to ditch it, like me, until you suddenly realize that your hatred has turned to respect (mostly). The interview section with the author at the end helped finish things on a sweet note.

I didn’t give this one a star rating because it would either be 1 or 4 stars and anything in between felt wishy-washy.

Source: my public library

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