wasthecuteone: (an even bigger chocolate bar for me?)
[personal profile] wasthecuteone
Checking in with Petra West from Beauty Queens by Libba Bray, which you should all really have read by now. If you haven't, well, what are you waiting for? Go, go, I'll wait! And then you should come back and app all of Petra's fellow Teen Dreamers. Even Taylor. Maybe especially Taylor.

Okay, no, I am going to give you the swoo on Petra. But you really should read the book. It's amazeballs. It's also full of awesome footnotes, which explains a lot about this entry.

The World of Beauty Queens
Beauty Queens takes place in a world a lot like ours, except for a few major and cracked-out differences. Imagine if WalMart were even more awful and really did rule the world.1 That's The Corporation. The Corporation makes everything you could ever need, from Bipolar Bears2 to Maxi-Pad Pets3, and even produces most hit shows4 and musical acts5. If you're thinking this book sounds like a gold mine for meta media, you're absolutely right. There's even a 'reality' TV show about English boarding school boys who run away after they discover a crime to become pirates/rock stars, Captains Bodacious. To quote Petra, it is TV heroin. The Corporation also sponsors the annual Miss Teen Dream Pageant, where fifty of America's best and brightest teen girls compete to see who looks best in a swimsuit for scholarship money. More on that in a moment.

Some of the celebrities in this world are different from the ones we're familiar with. Most of these are fun throwaways, but there are three that are important to know. Instead of Sarah Palin, we have Ladybird Hope, the most successful Miss Teen Dream ever, having parlayed her pageant fame into several successful business enterprises and a position high in The Corporation, and planning to become president. Instead of Kim Jong-Il, there's MoMo B. ChaCha, Ser Peacock of the Republic of ChaCha, and even more insane than the real thing. He is obsessed with Ladybird Hope and Elvis Presley, and his most trusted advisor is a stuffed lemur named General Goodtimes. And instead of Justin Timberlake, we have--or had, rather, as he disappeared rather precipitously when the band broke up--JT Woodland, 'the cute one'6 from Boyz Will B Boyz. More on them in a moment, too.

The Plot
Our story begins when the plane carrying the contestants in this year's Miss Teen Dream to the island resort and water park where the contest will take place crashes on a deserted island. The flight crew, chaperones, and most of the contestants are killed, and the survivors must struggle to make it work with "little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner," and do all they can to be rescued. Along the way, they learn about themselves, each other, feminism, hot reality show pirates, safe sex, giant snakes, how crazy Miss Texas really is, weaponized leg hair removal cream, rescuing themselves, the secret Corporation compound on the other side of the island, and Ladybird Hope's terrifying plan to kill them and take over the world.

Name: Petra West
State: Rhode Island
Age: 16 1/2
Height: 5'11"
Weight: A lady never tells.
Hair: Caramel blonde
Eyes: Topaz
Best Feature: My mouth

...okay, so that doesn't tell you much that's actually useful, and the rest of Petra's Fun Facts About Me page is interesting, but it's kind of long for this entry. Long story short, Petra West, Miss Rhode Island, is also the tallest contestant in Miss Teen Dream at 5'11. Her mother is a seamstress and artist who taught Petra to sew, bead, crochet, etc., and Petra sews all her own costumes, and also a rescue banner7 made from discarded evening gowns and costumes. Petra is, unlike most of the other contestants, confident in herself. She knows who she is and she isn't afraid to be that person. In fact, her biggest fear is not being herself. She loves old Hollywood glamour and wants to be an actress (her dream role is that of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel, and she's a huge Audrey Hepburn fan), and she reads a lot, too. Her favorite book is Orlando by Virginia Woolf8, and she makes Dickens puns with ease. In times of great stress, Petra relies on her skill at accessorizing to calm herself. She also gives Miss Mississippi9 a really cool haircut with a machete.

Oh, Petra was also the pageant's first transgender contestant. Her family has always been supportive of her and wanted her to be able to have sex reassignment surgery, but money has been a problem. When she was eleven, she was known as JT Woodland10, and the Boyz Will B Boyz11 lucre should have solved her family's money woes and provided enough for her transition...except their manager embezzled it all. Despite money being tight, Petra's had the counseling, the hormones and androgen blockers, the electrolysis, everything but the surgery...and then another blow. Her mother got breast cancer, and the family's insurance ruled it a preexisting condition since, after all, she already had breasts. Chemo wiped out their savings and put them deep in debt. Then Petra's support group put her in touch with Trans Am12, a transgender rights group that agreed to pay for Petra's surgery if she competed in Miss Teen Dream and placed, then revealed her secret at the post-pageant press conference as a giant political statement. With nothing to lose, she jumped. And then she wound up stranded on the worst island since Lost instead. Oops?

So, yes, Petra is currently in possession of a penis13. She's not going to lie about it, but she's not going to make a big deal out of it either. How often do your characters discuss their genitalia? Exactly. If it does come up, she's pretty matter-of-fact, and if someone freaks, well, she's not going to be thrilled about it but she'll deal. It won't be the first time and it won't be the last.14

Petra is coming to Fandom from post-canon, from which you may surmise that the Teen Dreamers make it off the island and maybe even foil the evil plot. She is on a break from her sexy reality TV pirate boyfriend, Sinjin St. Sinjin, until she finishes school, because she is too fabulous to tie herself down to the long-distance relationship thing, especially at sixteen. They're still friends, though, and one of these days he's going to give her back her heels. Petra's secret and former identity were revealed to the public in the course of the book, and rather than subject her family to a bunch of nonsense and publicity, Petra's decided boarding school could be a thing worth giving a shot. Hence, Fandom High.

Anything more than that, well, you'll have to read the book. Go! Hurry! Do it now!15 Or, if you've already done so, feel free to join me in the comments to talk about the awesomesauce.

Or join me in the comments with questions, comments, and/or pie. It's all good.


1Did you just feel a chill run down your spine? I know I did.
2Bipolar Bears, the Corporation's cuddly combination vitamin and mood-leveling drug marketed to tween and teen girls. Bipolar Bears banish bad moods and keep you beauty queen perfect! Sold in a variety of signature bottles. Collect them all!
3Maxi-Pad Pets, the revolutionary new fashion maxi pad that makes you feel like you've got a special friend in your pants. Available in twelve fun varieties, from a cuddly teddy bear to a playful platypus. Brought to you by The Corporation: In your homes and in your pants.
4Vampire Prom: The Corporations' Monday night supernatural drama about a pack of high school vampires and their dating dilemmas. Based on the novels, which were based on the graphic novels based on the comics, which in turn were based on the Swedish art-house movie. "Some vampires are born to kill. Some, to dance." (Catch the Vampire Prom dance tour coming to an arena near you!)
5Boyz Will B Boyz, The Corporation's first hit seventh-grade boy band, ruled the charts for eleven months five years ago on the strength of their smash multiplatinum hit "Let Me Shave Your Legs Tonight, Girl" before hitting puberty and losing ground to Hot Vampire Boyz. Five years later, they are nothing but a trivia question.
6This is what we call 'a clue.'
7Which the girls' so-called rescuers make them take down because it has the word 'bitches' in it, which is totally okay if you're a rapper or a producer making a movie about career women, but not if you're a teenage girl referring to her homies.
8Pageant officials wanted her to change it to something more "relatable" like I Love You So Much I Forgot to Have a Real Life, but that book makes her want to yak.
9Who goes by the truly amazing name of Tiara Destiny Swan.
10Who all saw that coming?
11Petra also has a lovely singing voice and can do all the moves from a variety of Boyz Will B Boyz videos if you ask really nicely. Additionally, she has a black belt. She's a transgender former boy band member. Self-defense is important.
12Yes, like the car.
13She planned to wear a sarong for the swimsuit portion.
14Miss California, sad to say, called her 'he' for a little while after she found out, and almost got Petra thrown out of the camp the rest of the girls were sleeping in, except Miss Nebraska pointed out there was no rule against transgender contestants. I am pleased to report Miss California did eventually get her head on straight.
15Look! It's a convenient link! And I have it on good authority that the audiobook is also an excellent option. Or you can check it out at your local library! Or pick it up at your local bookstore! It's a positive plethora of options!

Date: 2011-08-23 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] izzyalienqueen.livejournal.com
After reading the review on Forever Young Adult, I had to read this book.

I laughed my ass off. It's extremely funny and yeah, you must read it.

Yay Petra!!!

Date: 2011-08-23 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] blondecanary.livejournal.com
Yaaaaaay Petra!

It's wrong that I want to play Tiara at Parents' Weekend already, isn't it? Hmm. Don't care.

We need more footnotes in all posts!

Date: 2011-08-23 01:41 pm (UTC)
vanillajello: (That vaguely excited look.)
From: [personal profile] vanillajello
... Man, this book sounds amazing.

Date: 2011-08-23 01:45 pm (UTC)
life_inshadow: ([pos] gigglefit!)
From: [personal profile] life_inshadow
I think I need to read this book now. Also, I love the footnotes.

Date: 2011-08-24 12:12 am (UTC)
life_inshadow: (Default)
From: [personal profile] life_inshadow
I failed at finishing The Sweet Far Thing for some reason, but I've loved all the Libba Bray I've read other than that. (And I may have a Pippa Cross journal somewhere.) Adding Beauty Queens to my library queue.

Date: 2011-08-23 09:35 pm (UTC)
locointhecoco: (book-pony)
From: [personal profile] locointhecoco
I really do have to read this book. Definitely. OMG.

Date: 2011-08-24 12:53 am (UTC)
locointhecoco: (Default)
From: [personal profile] locointhecoco
Yeah, so I officially bought it tonight as part of my birthday present to myself.

How could I turn down the journey into the "heart of unexfoliated darkness"?

Date: 2011-08-25 11:46 am (UTC)
spiritandsword: (Default)
From: [personal profile] spiritandsword
This sounds awesome and it is quite possible I just ordered it. :D

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