Every teenager should read this book. It was fun and thought-provoking, and while some of the lessons are a little on the Berenstain Bears side of heavy-handed, there’s enough ridiculousness to even it out.
A plane carrying Miss Teen Dream contestants to the pageant finale crashes on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere. Conveniently, all the adults are killed. The survivors must learn to survive, and along the way to learning concrete things like how to collect rainwater in a deconstructed ballgown, they also learn to think about why girls are raised the way they are, and how good it feels to be Somebody, and not just to be Pretty.
There are a lot of Lessons here, and Things to Think About, but Bray does it in such a fun way. She’s not telling you what to think; she’s encouraging you to do the thinking. Of the survivors on the island, there’s an African American contestant, a contestant whose parents emigrated from India before she was born, a deaf bisexual contestant, a lesbian contestant, a transgender contestant, and a feminist journalist who’s there undercover to bring down the patriarchy. There’s also a stereotypical dumb blonde, some assorted other contestants, and Miss Texas, who takes over and tries to keep the girls pageant-ready, so they can wow the cameras when they’re rescued. Each contestant gets a lovely little backstory that shows her fellow contestants/survivors that everybody’s a little deeper than you think, and maybe it would be smart to keep your mouth shut and get to know somebody before getting too judgy.
So that part of it is all very cool (along with some sidebars into why slut-shaming is bad, a girl’s agency over her body, etc. etc. etc.), but then there’s also some bonkers stuff going on with a secret military base on the island, a plot by the evil Corporation (that owns the pageant) to not rescue the contestants because it might interfere with their arms deal, some snakes, some exploding hair remover cream, and, of course, some pirates. It moves fast, makes you think, and is an awesome story of not only girl power, but just learning to be okay with who you are.