To start off, I have to admit that I'd heard not so good things about Going Bovine from librarians in my school district. Of course I follow authors on Twitter who say good things about it. So conflicting reviews, and the fact that so far the books haven't sounded like something I really wanted to read after a quick scan of book jackets, had kept me from reading any of Libba Bray's books until now. What finally got me to pick up this book, Beauty Queens, and read it, was a review in Entertainment Weekly magazine. They described it as hilarious. So, I checked it out from my bookstore and set in to form my own opinion.
First I was glad that by checking it out I didn't have to carry around the book with the cover. Sorry, would have felt really weird carrying about a book with a picture of a girl in a bikini and machine gun on the cover, especially since I think it was just her body, the head was cut off. It took me a while to get into the book. I could tell right away it was going to make fun of beauty pageants, and to start off it seemed pretty much like what you'd expect. But as I read further in, it got to be way different, and more complex in what the jokes and themes were. We got to know most of the beauty pageant contestants pretty well, and they all had something to hide you could say. Now, I will say that a lot of the themes were pretty mature. And so I would not recommend this to a middle school student, unless they were a really advanced reader. I know that at that age I was reading VC Andrews books, but I was one of those advanced readers, and my parents would probably have taken them away if they'd known what they were about. But high school would be okay. Themes include homosexuality, promiscuity, sex changes, etc. Not that I have a problem with any of them, just know that if I was in a school library, especially at middle school level, there could be issues.
There were some of the funniest lines I've read in a book in a long time. First was this little section (Warning, mature theme here):
p. 148: Nicole is saying: "But only after she accidentally has sex with him."
"Hold up. How do you accidentally have sex with somebody?" Adina scoffed. "Is she all, 'Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't see your penis there'?"
Freaking hilarious! I laughed out loud when I was reading that. Unfortunately I forgot to mark with post it notes the other spots that made me laugh that hard, so I can't share those with you. But suffice it to say that Entertainment Weekly was correct, this is one funny book.
Only one thing I disliked, the book went back and forth between calling them by their names and their states, like Taylor is Miss Texas. But sometimes I couldn't remember who they were by their states, it was easier when I saw their names. So I just wish that would have been a bit more clear. I can't end on a negative note though, I have to again say this was a really funny book.