Category Archives: Contemporary

Book Review- Beauty Queens

beautyqueens

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program – or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan – or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

This is one of the funniest books I have read in a very long time! The characters are full of silly quirks, for example, Miss New Mexico has a lunch tray embedded in her forehead for the entirety of the novel from the plane crash. Doesn’t that just make you want to read this book?

It took me a few chapters to figure it out, to really get into the writing style, though. It almost reminded me of Jellicoe Road in that you kind of have to push yourself at the beginning. Most of the book is told in a satirical tone that is very hard to describe. For example, at the beginning, Bray talks in a voice similar to the one you read in the summary above. But the farther you read, the more the depth of the characters becomes obvious. They are real, relatable people with problems and fears and prejudices just like we are.

There is no *one* romantic plot, as there are something like 16 girls stuck on the island, and about as many pirates. Libba Bray does a wonderful job of making the group of seemingly shallow beauty queens as diverse as people are in current America. There is no typical relationship in the novel, and I like that, because what is a ‘typical’ relationship, anyway? (hint- it doesn’t exist)

A lot of people complain about “excessive” footnotes in this novel, but I didn’t think it was excessive at all. I mean, compared to some stuff David Foster Wallace writes, there were no footnotes at all. It’s just part of the novel’s style to have a lot of footnotes.

This book is unlike any I’ve ever read, in a good and a bad way. It is a book that I certainly wouldn’t recommend to everyone, but one that many will like and identify with. The writing and plotting is impressive and advanced, and just all around a great read! As long as you try to come into reading this book without preconceptions or expectations, I believe you’ll enjoy it.

Olivia

PS. I forgot to mention- this is a classic case of why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover. The cover reflects the bubblegum-esque, shallow style of the earlier parts of the novel, not the novel itself. Don’t let it put you off of the book!

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Modern Fiction

Book Review- Invisibility

invisibility

When I saw this book on the shelf at my library, I recognized it (as people deeply involved in book culture are wont to do). I met David Levithan at YALLFest last year, and he was super nice and down to earth. At that time, I hadn’t read any of his books and was only purchasing one of them (Every Day- one of my favorites of all time). I had a feeling that anything written by him would be amazing, but this book only lived up to and exceeded that expectation!

Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth.

I love this book so much!! When you read a lot of books, you come to expect a lot, especially from a book about something as seemingly simple as invisibility. But the farther into the book you read, the more you discover that there is an entire world hidden behind the seeming simplicity of invisibility, and Elizabeth holds the key. I finished this book in mere hours, because once I started, it was impossible to walk away. The writing was beautiful and haunting, but readable, and I thought Levithan’s writing was extraordinarily empathetic with an invisible boy. It’s hard to understand what I mean without reading it- how can someone know what it feels like to never have been seen?- but he pulls it off.

The magical world behind Stephen’s invisibility curse is complex and thought provoking. The curse, itself, is also so. Many people wish to be invisible, it is widely regarded as something cool, you only have to look at Harry Potter to see what people idolize. Power, invisibility, and eternal life. But this gives a whole new spin on the idea of not being seen- for someone like Stephen who has been invisible since birth, it is not a blessing. The whole issue was delicately handled, and I like that.

The romance was slow and sweet, but passionate, and the ending was heartbreaking. I think it was actually the best part, even though it was sad in a certain way. I highly, highly recommend this book for most anyone, especially for fans of David Levithan or Andrea Cremer (his co-author), YA fans, or those who like a healthy dose of magical realism. (and really, who doesn’t?)

Have a great day, everyone!

Olivia

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Magical Realism