Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Musings: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

xBeauty Queens

All the discussions about diversity in YA? All the times authors have said "I write about X because it's underrepresented in the marketplace"? 

Yeah. Those conversations can stop. 

The heart of Beauty Queens is the diverse cast. Granted every character has the "thing" that makes them special (being Deaf, gay, transgender, Texan) but they also have intriguing characteristics and backstories that keep them from being only this trait. Additionally, certain revelations--particularly about the trans character--are done so skillfully that you care about the person before the trait.

In a way, I think the thread of satire with the Corporation--serving to remind the reader of the way the image of beauty is controlled--might be overdone a bit. It serves a purpose, and for some might be the heart of the book, but for me the diversity won hands down.

Sosie, the Deaf character, has so much else going for her. She's a badass warrior, a dancer, questioning her sexuality and more. However, Bray isn't afraid to delve into the effect her disability has on her life--the choices she makes to prove people wrong. In one particularly well-drawn flashback she describes interaction with a girl in a wheelchair who is taking the The World Sucks attitude toward disability whereas Sosie is all My Disability Doesn't Get Me Down. I've seen both perspectives to this extreme and think Bray hit the nail on the head. 

I also think this puts the nail in the coffin for the "can you write what you haven't experienced?" question. Bray can, and does.

A few notes:

Significant parts of the set-up reminded me of Gordon Korman's Island! Trilogy, but I may be the only person who reread those about a million times in 2000.

At one point the phrase "deranged Muppet" is used, linking it to Maureen Johnson's Last Little Blue Envelope, which is fun.