Sat 18 Jun 2011
Just when it seemed the popular cheerleader and Glee Club member had successfully bounced back from her first-season pregnancy and rebuilt her image as the most perfect girl at William McKinley High School, things got complicated.
In the span of a few episodes, Quinn began dating Sam (the cute new boy in school), kissed her first love Finn, decided to stay with Sam, got mono, was dumped by Sam and started dating Finn again. This led to her having words with Rachel about their respective futures. It seems Quinn plans to graduate from high school, marry Finn and become a real-estate agent while Rachel is destined for stardom far beyond Lima, Ohio.
Quinn also was determined to be prom queen.
Because then she’d be back on top of the school hierarchy and live — on average — five years longer than than her non-royal subjects. In her quest for the crown, everyone learned that svelte, smooth-skinned Quinn Fabray had once been overweight, acne-prone Lucy Fabray who had gone to great lengths to reinvent herself and hide her past.
If I were Quinn’s librarian, I would have taken her aside, suggested she spend a little time by herself, and handed her Beauty Queens (Scholastic Press, 2011) by Libba Bray.
Why? Because it’s a delightfully sarcastic and very readable story.
It describes what happens when a plane full of teenage beauty contestants crashes on a tiny island leaving the girls to fend for themselves. Armed with only their collective knowledge and an impressive array of cosmetics and evening wear, the one-time rivals build housing, develop a water-sanitization system and find ways to feed themselves. Oh, and they keep working on their pageant skills so they’re ready to compete once they’re rescued.
As the girls struggle to survive, they learn things about themselves and each other — especially how many of their own dreams and desires they’ve suppressed to improve their odds of winning the “Miss Teen Dream” title. (At this point, feel free to pause and mentally hum Glee’s version of “Teenage Dream.”)
One contestant is trying to live up to her mother’s thwarted hopes. Another is playing up her ethnicity to be more appealing to the judges. And another is trying to prove her worth to an absent mother. Then there’s the contestant hoping to expose the pageant as a demeaning way of repressing women, the contestant who’s transgendered and trying to prove a point, and the contestant who’s in love with one of her peers.
If this sounds heavy, it’s not.
Amid this list of issues, there are laugh-out-loud jokes about boy bands, feminine product commercials, Ivy League educations, pirates, vampires and politics. Questionnaires completed by the contestants before the plane crash tell more about each character and add to the fun. Footnotes abound throughout the book, and they are universally hilarious.
I’d especially suggest Quinn, who is portrayed by the lovely Dianna Agron, check out the commercial break on page 211 which features an ad for “Breast in Show,” a plastic-surgery company that claims, “There’s no part of you that can’t be improved … Because ‘You’re perfect just the way you are’ is what your guidance counselor says. And she’s an alcoholic.’ ”
I’d also point her to page 177 where the girls compare their time on the island to the book Lord of the Flies. Here’s what one says:
Maybe girls need an island to find themselves. Maybe they need a place where no one’s watching them so they can be who they really are … There was something about the island that made the girls forget who they had been. All those rules and shalt nots. They were no longer waiting for some arbitrary grade. They were no longer performing. Waiting. Hoping. They were becoming. They were.
Now there’s a concept.
Maybe, just maybe, this book would help Quinn realize her worth is determined by more than how she looks and that — if she truly wants to — she’s capable of leaving Lima, Ohio.
Whether or not she ever marries Finn or becomes prom queen.
Other things that make this a GLEE-ful read include:
The line on page 55 that says, “The earth beneath them gave way suddenly, and the girls were swept down the mountainside in a spiral of mud, sequins and screams.” (I couldn’t help but think this was an accurate description of this year’s William McKinley prom.)
The reference to defying gravity in the book’s last sentence. I don’t think Libba Bray was thinking of Glee or the musical “Wicked” when she wrote it, but it’s strangely appropriate nonetheless.
And finally, if you’d like to see which books I’ve recommended to other Glee characters, they are:
• Quinn Fabray – Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
• David Karofsky – Dairy Queen and The Off Season both by Catherine Gilbert Murdock.
• Rachel Berry – Theater Geek by Mickey Rapkin.
• Kurt Hummel – Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.