I think I admired this more than I actively liked it. I'm pretty sure it's the sort of book I'd try to give to my teenage daughter, if a teenage daughter ever had the misfortune to have me as a father. It's basically a book about the sort of things adults believe teenagers should know and think about, which probably means my imaginary teenage daughter would rightfully hate it.
I mean, credit where it's due, Beauty Queens is totally right on. It's about tolerance and self-acceptance and all this good stuff, it's sex-positive, there's lesbians in it, and a sensitive depiction of a trans-character. The stuff that dreams are made of, essentially.
It's basically Lord of the Flies with lip gloss - a bunch of teenage beauty queens get stranded on a desert island and have adventures and character development. Stylistically, it's simultaneously merciless and generous - it doesn't flinch from some pretty dark satire but it also treats most of its characters with genuine respect and tenderness.
Less successful, to my mind, is the larger plot, since the island where they're stranded is the site of a some dodgy dealings between The Corporation, an American megacorp that owns, as far as as I can tell, everything in America, and MoMo B. ChaCha, a psychotic, murderous Elvis-obsessed dictator. I don't know, I know it's satire and all that, and that psychotic dictators are bad but it's a bit still uncomfortable-making. Also I felt the book was a bit harsh on Miss Texas - who is exactly like you'd imagine she'd be - who ends up going completely nuts and turning into some kind of Beauty Queen Jungle Rambo. I mean, I know she's not very sympathetic and we wishy washy liberals don't like people who like guns and all that, but I thought it was a bit strange that the politically oppositional character was the only person who isn't allowed to come slowly towards self-acceptance and understanding.
“Ahem. Dear Jesus,” Taylor intoned more fervently. “We just want to thank you for gettin' us here safe - ”
There was a loud, gurgling groan. Somebody shouted, “Oh my gosh! Miss Delaware just died!”
“ - for getting' some of us here,” Taylor continued.