One of my favourite young adult writers is Libba Bray, and not only because she has the same initials as me, or because as my husband pointed out, if you squint your eyes her name resembles “library”. She is not afraid to experiment with different genres- indeed her first trilogy was a wonderful 19th century Victorian boarding school magical mystery tour. Her next endeavour, Going Bovine, an insane romp through the dying mind of a hapless teenage boy afflicted with mad cow disease, won her the Michael Printz award. I reviewed it in this post.
And now Beauty Queens (Actually I am a little late on the uptake. I think she has an actual new one out very soon, and once again on a totally different subject). So here is a quote from the acknowledgement section of the book, just to give you an idea of what it is about:
A huge thanks to my editor and uber-mensch [there is a funny footnote here which I am not going to quote here. You will just have to buy the book and read it yourself], David Levithan, who years ago, said, ” A plane full of beauty queens crashes on a deserted island. And…Go!”
Yep. That is essentially the plot of this wonderful tome I think all girls should read.
Because of shite like this:
And like this:
WTF?I have to say, when I read that first article, it felt personal. No, not because I equate myself in anyway with the pinnacle of physical fitness these women have attained, but because it has taken me a very long time to realise that I don’t want to be thin so much as strong and healthy.
I know. Duh.
But I don’t want that just for myself. I want my daughters to feel the joy of having their bodies function well. Have the feeling of strength as you run, or muscles as you lift things. I want them to feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from pushing yourself physically, of doing something you couldn’t do before. I want them to eat right so they can have the energy to get through their day without being exhausted, to use exercise and diet (as in what you eat daily not as in some weird eat-only-grapefruit-until-your-pee-turns-to-acid insanity) as a catapult to launch them into the socratic “examined life.”
Basically, I want them to feel like Wonder Woman, without having to wear the stupid costume.
But really, if we live in a society that can still objectify the body of our world’s top athletes and judge them as wanting, I want out. Really. I give back my ticket. I am saying a hail and hearty fuck you to all thoughts of trying to fit in body-wise.
That is mostly what I want my daughters to do too.
As Twisted Sister said, “We’re not going to take it anymore.”
Okay. I guess a lot of people have said that, but none with such panache.
And that is why Libba Bray’s book is so wonderful. It does exactly that. Part Miss Congeniality, part James Bond thriller, part Mel Brooks satire, and yes, part Lord of the Flies, Bray takes an outlandish plot and manages to plunk down some very fleshed out (no pun intended) characters.
Now don’t think this book is simply a polemic against the beauty industry and the insane standards women must try to live up to (though there is that, but done in such a hilarious way you won’t mind). There a nuances as well. The individual contestants all have different issues to deal with besides trying to figure out who you are when the world insists on seeing you only one way.
Questions like why is our sexuality something to hide instead of embrace (slut vs. stud anyone?) come up. Transgendered issues. Gay issues. And the age old question of how do you survive your parents expectations of you, as well as navigate the rocky shoals of your hormones while retaining your good sense. All of that plus more awaits you. So pick it up now.
That’s all I have to say.