|If he were a book, I would lick - I mean read it.|
But this isn't a post about Doctor Who. It's a post about how I was pleasantly surprised by quite enjoying two books by Libba Bray when I wasn't expecting to. The first is Going Bovine and the other is Beauty Queens.
A few years ago, I read Bray's Gemma Doyle trilogy. Those books are serious, dark, and brooding and I loved them. Gemma and some other girls from a Victorian boarding school discover an alternate world that at first seems full of fairies and sunshine. But this world gets darker and creepier as the trilogy goes on.
I ignored both of these books until this month. I couldn't figure out what the September book would be for my teeny tiny YA book club and my boss suggested Going Bovine. I was all, "Ugh... this looks stupid." But it won the Printz and I liked Gemma Doyle so I gave it a try. Going Bovine is the story of Cameron, a high school kid who doesn't really care about anyone except himself and is kind of a jerk. Cameron gets diagnosed with Mad Cow Disease and sees all kinds of crazy stuff. He can no longer tell hallucinations from reality. One evening, while researching his illness online, Cameron is told to "follow the feather" and is sent on a roadtrip/planet saving mission by a punk rock angel named Dulcie. There is also a paranoid dwarf, a Norse god in a garden gnome's body, and a drag queen. I only mention the drag queen because, HOLY CRAP I LOVE DRAG QUEENS!
I just finished Beauty Queens yesterday. I liked Going Bovine so much that I ran out and bought it. I devoured Beauty Queens in big gulps, taking out half the book in one sitting. Beauty Queens is about a group of girls competing for the title of Miss Teen Dream. Their plane crash lands en route to a tropical island getaway where they were to practice their moves and get prettied up. All adults and more than half of the contestants die in the crash. The remaining girls are left to figure out how to survive on this island with nothing except what they could salvage from the plane wreckage. Every girl has a secret, some dire, some depressing, some fantastic, and learning about each one kept me turning the pages. Bray goes even further down the road of satire in Beauty Queens, providing footnotes and "commercial breaks" throughout.
I loved that Beauty Queens was empowering without being cliche or preachy. Each girl was her own unique self with merits and faults. Each girl also came to her own self realization in very natural ways. The overall message was one of being comfortable with who you are even if it takes a while to figure it out, and even if you mess up along the way. Aside from that, Beauty Queens was just so much frigging fun! I really wish this book had been around when I was a teen.
So, Libba Bray has taught me that I can appreciate humor in my fiction. But only if it's dark humor. Dark and brooding humor...