Summer fun listening? Try Beauty Queens by Libba Bray – you’ll snort your morning commute coffee out your nose. I was lucky to get my hands on a sneak peek copy of the audiobook from Scholastic’s Director of Production Paul Gagne – and, like, OMG! It’s the perfect start to light-hearted, laugh-out-loud summertime listening. Gagne sent along two short interviews with Bray for me to share with readers – they’re at the end of the post. Thanks, Paul!
Just let me tell you, it’s clear that Libba Bray hears voices in her head. Usually, she let the conversation flow out of her fingers and onto paper in books such as her Printz winner Going Bovine. But this time, Bray grabbed the microphone with both hands and let loose the awesome audible mayhem that ensues when an airplane-load of teen beauty queens is marooned on a desert island minus their styling products. The story’s great, with plenty of meaty reflections on gender, sexuality, commercialism and expectations beneath the fluffy froth of high-heeled humor. But it’s Bray’s absolutely brilliant narration that proves that each character’s been living in her cortex ready to burst from her lips and into your ears, with full-on stereo stilettos ready to take the audiobook runway.
Author narrators are often a tricky subject when selecting audiobooks. When they’re bad, it is so very painful. But when they’re good, the production moves well beyond the printed page and into an audio format that transcends the limits of the book. And this one is very, very good – Bray climbs right onto the same shelf with my favorite audiobook author-narrators with Beauty Queens. She’s hugely hilarious with her voicings of Miss Teen Dream contestants, from Texan-twanged alpha-gal to breathy bird-brained Southern princesses. Bray’s in the zone with a nuanced narrator tone in her exposition. Scattered throughout are commercial breaks, footnotes, TV show clips, and other ephemeral bits of fun, where Bray turns on her advertising announcer persona, set off by clever sound production do-dads: a chime bracketing the footnotes, mood-setting music, manipulated distortions matching the effects that were surely echoing the original soundtrack in Bray’s head.
Can you tell I loved this one? Although you’ll probably find this in with the Young Adult titles in the library, this one is a sure-fire crossover hit and a great mother-daughter in-car audiobook club for gals who aren’t afraid of some hard-hitting – but very funny – truths about all things female.
Now here’s Libba Bray to give you a taste of her amazing presence behind the mic..