Beauty Queens by Libba Bray is a delightfully bad B movie of a book. It is cheese-tactic. It is not a book striving for believability but for outrageous laughter that slips in quite a few feminist lessons for the teen girl (or woman) reading it. It is about teen beauty queen contestants who get stranded on a deserted island. It is not Lord of the Flies, more like Princesses of the Butterflies. I would not say this was the best book ever written or even that I want to read it again, but it was the perfect beach vacation novel. It is definitely an intersectional feminist book, as Bray explores nearly every popular trope and what they need, from the Black funny sidekick to the lesbian dropout to even the transgender pop star. The only problem was that Bray tried so hard to capture everything that I never got any true depth of character or plot, but then, I don't think that's what she was trying to do. It's light reading, but the feminist girl power passages make it worth reading.
My two favorite passages were about Mary Lou, who discovers it's okay to be a "wild girl," and discovers her good sexual power and Sosie, the deaf dancer. I could relate to Sosie's struggle to always be the good kind of disabled person and her story was the one that actually choked me up a little. Her story has actually made me think a lot about why I perform so much inner work in order to not be bitter about what I go through and I want you all to know that it is not so that I can be the acceptable, inspirational disabled person but so that I can be as happy and content as I can be. I do not want to be miserable. However, I am not a magical nonangry person and hopefully I will never be so happy that I cannot be a voice for those who cannot speak about the injustices facing people with disabilities.
When the virus stole most of Sosie’s hearing, it also stole her right to complain. She figured out early that nobody liked an angry disabled person. It messed with their sympathy, with the story in their head about people overcoming adversity to be shining lights in the world. People wanted to think you were so okay with it all so they wouldn’t have to expend any energy feeling guilty. (Chapter 12)
I am not okay with the fact that it is a world that does not accommodate my differences that makes me disabled - not the other way around. However, I am okay with myself the way that I am.
Mary Lou's epiphany that our bodies are not curses I found immensely satisfied and I thought applied to both young women:
It was not a curse to fully inhabit your body. You were only as cursed as you allowed yourself to be. (Chapter Fifteen)