Smackdown Books 2018

Wolf Hollow
Salt to the Sea
The Serpent King
Optimists Die First
The Hate U Give
Orphan Island
Dan vs. Nature
The Female of the Species
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
Paper Girls, Vol. 1
The Passion of Dolssa
The Distance Between Us
When We Collided
Louis parmi les spectres
Girl in the Blue Coat
Defy the Stars

Monday, February 6, 2012

Beauty Queens vs. A Tale Dark and Grimm Part 2

Ok, so I will try to keep this one short and sweet. Brent said everything that needed to be said about these two books in much more academic language than I would be able to muster at this point in the day.

Basically, this battle comes down to The Hot Mess of a Book vs. The Broken Promises of Violence in a Fairy Tale.

Libba Bray does a good job of slapping her readers across the face with her million different opinions on a million different topics in her cheeky novel. There are commentaries on reality TV, beauty pageants, advertising geared towards girls, lesbians, transgender, evil corporations, boy bands, beauty as pain, the hyper-sexualization of teens, female sexuality, and the list could go on and on.

And on.

And this is the biggest problem with her novel. It really becomes a mess by the end, to the point where I don't think the author really knew what she was trying to say anymore. As much as I loved this book at the beginning, with its witty contestant data sheets and footnotes, I was aching for it to end by the last 75 pages or so. If she had kept her thoughts in order, she would have kept me as an audience and I think this book would have been a shoo-in to move forward.

My thoughts on Dark and Grimm are more about unfulfilled promises. Firstly, I was annoyed at the narrator constantly interrupting the flow of the narrative to tell me things that I, as an intelligent human being, was aware of. Ok, I get it, you are going to pretend it is the end a few times. Ok, we understand, we should put the children to bed before reading on.

Which leads to my problem with the novel. It promises the true telling of Hansel and Gretel, which it does by combining several fairy tales in a clever way. It also promises that these stories used to be fun, and more violent. But where is the REAL violence? Maybe I am psychotic, but when a book is so hyped up and built up around the promise of gore, I demand gore. I want Battle Royale- worthy deaths and blood baths. And all I got was a severed finger and a few other PG-13 incidents.

So here is our problem Brent...I would choose Beauty Queens to move onto the next round. I think it is more intelligent, and it delivers on what it promises. Sure, the latter stages of the book are in dire need of an editor, but overall, I think the novel could open the eyes of some teen readers as to how much they are influenced by the media and the role of pop culture in their lives.

I choose Beauty Queens to move on, because I loved parts of this book. I enjoyed Dark and Grimm, but didn't really love any of it.


  1. Hey Andrew,
    I know this is the part where I should be putting up a big fight and attempting to put the smack in smackdown, but my heart is just not in it. Truth be told, I found both books annoying as hell and pretty cool at various times. Re-reading my own post, I actually think that my most compelling point favors Beauty Queens and oddly enough I'd already thought about Beauty Queens as a zombie pick, whereas here on the cusp of reversing my pick I don't see a zombie awakening in the Dark and Grimm future. Ii'll stand by my contention that Dark and Grimm might find itself an ultimately more diverse audience, but Beauty Queens for all it's big, sexy, sloppiness, probably has a better chance of changing ( saving?) the world. Thanks for showing me the error of my ways.

  2. Hahaha, I didn't think it would be that easy! But I agree with you. Dark and Grimm is an entertaining read, and probably does have a wider audience (because it could include male readers). But I think the age is limited on it. I can't see anyone past grade 8 really getting into it, even if it is only because it seems like a kid book.

    And I agree, I don't know how far Dark and Grimm could go in this competition. I think Beauty Queens has a shot of going far.

    Beauty Queens it is! Dia should be happy.

  3. Dia is happy! Both of you articulated the best there is about BQ in a way I stumbled to do when we did it as a book club pick. However my happiness is a bit overshadowed by both of you not enjoying Tale Dark and Grimm which was one of my favorites. As much as I am a bully (booktator some would say) I want you to love it. I'll have to settle for the grade sevens who are devouring it.

  4. I wouldn't say I didn't enjoy it. I think it had a lot that I really admired. I just didn't love it. I'm glad the grade sevens are having such a good time with it. I'll mention that to my new LA colleagues.