Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
If you are considering this book, I highly recommend the audio, read to you by the author. I have no idea how reading the traditional paper, or even the ebook would compare.
This is the story of the contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant and how they survive after their plane crashes on a deserted island. Think Lord of the Flies, but with beauty pageant girls. Actually, Lord of the Flies is referenced in Beauty Queens. According to Bray, or at least her pageant girls, Lord of the Flies would be a totally different book if there were girls on the island.
Bray tackles all of the stereotypes of girl, the misguided feminist, the airhead, the slut, the militant pageant queen, the lesbian, the geek, even a transgendered contestant, and she gives each of her disparate girls dignity and talent. None of them is perfect, they've all got issues, plenty of issues. They start as competitors, then they get to know one another and they all grow. I don't know or care how realistic the story is, but Bray really makes it work. There's a lot of heart in this story, along with laughs, adventure, friendship, survival, and fun.
It starts with a tragedy. The plane carrying the Miss Teen Dream Pageant contestants crashes in the sea on a deserted island. The survivors have to find food, shelter and a way to signal for help. They've got to put their talents to use and fight for their survival. But, they aren't alone on the island and their plane crash was no accident. Not only do they have to survive the wreck and get off the island, they also have to fight the corporation responsible for their predicament.
There were plenty of laughs in this book. I really enjoyed the way the girls all got to know themselves and each other and how the experience changed them... in a totally non Lord of the Flies way. I'm a big proponent of girl power and this book has it in spades. If you are wondering about what makes a feminist, Bray has found a way to define it and show examples of the many many ways a woman can be a feminist. Miss New Hampshire thought she was a feminist and learned that it doesn't mean that you hate on women who make different choices than you, which I'm pretty sure was what she believed to be the definition of the word.
Bray brings together every girl stereotype and shows how they are all just real girls. They have different talents, skills and personalities, and every single one of them is a complete person in her own right. When women recognize that in each other we'll all be in much better shape.