George Orwell Meets Barbie

Sensational Saturday

A blog for fun! Fun! fun!

I don’t read too much YA, but when my daughter insisted I read Beauty Queens, I took the plunge. The cover cracked me up, a bandoleer of lipsticks on a bikini clad girl, but I was still a little leery. Luckily she was right. Beauty Queens is a fabulous book. Author Libba Bray has achieved the impossible, a YA that is both serious and fun, and highly satirical.

Beauty Queens by libba braeThe most interesting thing about Beauty Queens for me is that Libba herself is the narrator. I am listening to it on audio as I drive back and forth to work. I fact I missed two exits on my way to Rom Con because of the book. In audio books the narrator makes all the difference.

I’m usually not a big fan of authors narrating their own books, but Libba does a superior job. She does all the girls in different voices, and the sparkle she adds to the footnotes is amazing. Yes there are footnotes. Forty seven I believe. And Libba does them all in a bright and shiny announcer’s voice that the Corporation (TM) would be proud of.

The Corporation. Here’s where the fun starts.

Lovely girls survive a plane crash, that’s an interesting plot. Brings up memories of Lord of the Flies and high school. But you’ll see I’ve mentioned George Orwell, not Golding. This book is a satire, and one of the ways Libba has worked that is to add in, not just overly shiny commercials and footnotes, not just a culture that mimics ours in a satirical way, but she’s brought in the Corporation. The Corporation controls the world, in other words, our compulsive consumerism has put commerce in charge of our lives. What would your life be like if consumerism was the number one motivator?

We’re not that far from it, and Libba makes her point with ease. At the same time she exposes our cultures obsession with beauty, the lack of respect for girls with brains, and she does it all with flair and fun. I was laughing out loud. You will too.

And I highly suggest reading it in audio. I have yet to read the print book, but Libba has cleverly added bonus features to the audio. Every time the disks changed one of the girls came on and announced it. And then there is Libba herself. I can’t imagine how I would have read this book without her voices. Each girl has her own and they are spectacular.

It’s not paranormal, but Beauty Queens is one of the best books I’ve read all year. And I think it may be one of the best audio books ever.

Want to get to know the genius behind the covers? HERE is an interview with Libba.

Have you had a surprise summer read this year? Ever read a book that is better in audio than in the print version? (Not that I’m saying that about this one, I hear the print is pretty good, but you miss out on Libba.) Who else is making a dent in their TBR pile while driving to work? Or are you all sitting in beach chairs lounging with your drinks, hot waiters and your books?


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13 responses to “George Orwell Meets Barbie

  1. I listened to this in audio version last month and really enjoyed it. I laughed out loud frequently. Libba’s narration is terrific. She makes the characters come to life.

  2. I’ve read Libba Bray’s Great & Terrible Beauty series and loved it, and have heard good things already about Beauty Queens, so this book is already on my TBR shelf. But here is the clincher for me, Jessica. Not paranormal, yet one of the best you’ve read all year.

    If that’s not kudos and respect and true literary love sealed in the trunk of Barbie’s corvette, I don’t know what is.

    • Actually, when I’m not reading the paranormal competition, I usually read a large variety of books. My background is English Lit so I read 17th century literature for fun. I take Jane Austen to the beach as well as suspense and sci-fi and fantasy. I don’t read a ton of YA, and usually that is fantasy or paranormal related, but this was highly recommended. I hope Libba reads the audio of the Great & Terrible Beauty series, it will be in my corvette, ahem car ASAP!

  3. What Sherry said could be a case of Great Minds Think Alike or Fools Seldom Differ. Either way, my first thought when I read your piece was, “What the…?” Jessica Aspen/non-paranormal/best book read this year did not compute.

    I bopped over to the interview and now understand. Her double-pronged interviewer/interviewee ranked way up there on my snark-o-meter.

    I have not read any of her work, but you can bet I plan to put it in my travel bag for my trip north.

    The sound track from Country Strong will lose its charm. Eventually. Maybe.

    • Libba not only has a lot of snark packed into her book, she actually uses it as a verb. “That bag is getting a little full, wouldn’t you say,” Jessica snarked. I’ve never seen it used that way, but it fit the YA teen-speak she does so well. Are you driving? Get it in audio for sure!

  4. One of my favourite books/series is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Years after I read the books, I saw the audio at the library and decided it would be fun to read again on a road trip. I didn’t last 20 minutes. The voice ruined the image I had of Jamie Fraser and I couldn’t listen to it.

    That said, I love audio books when I have a long drive. I just won’t grab one that I’ve already read.

    Thanks for the recommendation, Jessica. I have a week at a cottage coming up and it’s going to be a reading marathon!

    • I know what you mean, the narrator can make all the difference. I know someone else who had never read Outlander and they read the audio first. They were hooked! My husband only reads in audio, needless to say he is only halfway through my tiny novella since it is not in audio. Maybe I should read it for him and put it on a disk. Hmm, that would be a fun giveaway!

  5. I LOVED this book and like you, highly recommend it on audio book. Libba is one of my favorite authors and she didn’t disappoint with this one. (I don’t do many book reviews on my blog but I simply had to with this one.) Her blog is equally hilarious, snarky, and smart as well.

  6. I read the print book, and I thought it was one of the best books I read in 2011.

  7. Pingback: linkies you’ll love | JessicaAspenWrites

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