Study Guide

Beauty Queens Friendship

By Libba Bray

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Adina gave a thumbs-up, and the girls grabbed her in a group hug. They cheered. For me, Adina thought. They were cheering her, and she was hit with a sense of pride and camaraderie she would have found cheesy back home. (9.68)

Here's the thing about deserted islands with hostile climates: they make community feel really important. Adina didn't need friends back home, when she had all her projects and sense of importance and stuff, but she definitely needs them now. And to her surprise, she finds they're kind of nice.

"Hey. Don't worry. We'll find it tomorrow." Adina put her arm around her friend. She hated everything the ring stood for, but it mattered to Mary Lou and so it mattered to Adina. (13.219)

Snaps to Adina for learning how to be a buddy! For her, ideals are everything. But she's able to separate them from her very real friendship with Mary Lou.

The girls were taking turns with the pumice stone, scraping it along the ends of sticks to make spears. The air was warm, the sound of waves soothing. And they fell into contented conversation, as if they'd been lucky enough to con all their parents into letting them have a colossal sleepover with no supervision. (13.72)

This is the first time the beauty queens catch a real break since they crashed on the island. The weather's good, they have a food source, they've built shelters and ways to protect themselves from future monsoons. They've bonded along the way. Makes it easy to forget they're stranded on an island with little hope of rescue.

"I don't know! I don't know anything about you. Because you're like this big mystery. I'm getting to know everybody else. But you, you're like a window display for an empty store, if you ask me." (16.49)

Nicole confronts Shanti, and she's right. Most of the other girls have let their guard down at least a little, but Shanti hasn't let the act drop for even a second. Face it: you can't be real friends with someone who is acting all the time.

The two of them lay back and let the warmth of the water work on their tense muscles. They were relaxed from the water and giggly with their shared adventure. Talk came easily now. (17.23)

A near-death experience with quicksand and some disclosure. That's what it took for Shanti and Nicole to go from frenemies in one chapter to true buddies in the next.

"If you were my best friend, you'd trust me." Adina took a step back. She'd never been anybody's best friend before. "Okay, Mary Lou, I got your back. Show us." (19.87-89)

Here we have yet another instance where Mary Lou teaches Adina how to be a friend. To Mary Lou, friends should believe you, no matter how improbable your story. That's a big lesson for skeptical Adina, but once again, the island's power to create friendship prevails.

"Nicole is no traitor," Shanti growled. "Or are you going to profile me next?" "Knew you'd have my back." Nicole stood with Shanti. (20.67-68)

Hard to believe that Shanti and Nicole used to have a bad relationship. Now, they're sticking together against racism. Powerful stuff.

When her friend had cried herself to sleep, Mary Lou covered her with a palm frond and marched toward the camp. Her strides took on purpose as if her feet were marking a path through the cornfields where wild girls ran unconstrained—and where they hid themselves when the world judged them for their agency. Her palms prickled. Her skin warmed. The wild girl was coming alive. The pack protecting its own. (23.30)

This is the first time where the idea of the "wild girl" isn't about Mary Lou's sexuality. She has a different kind of ferocity when someone messes with her friend. And it shows her that wildness ain't all that bad.

"Oh, and my friends need to come, too. We're girls. We travel in packs."
"Unbelievable," Petra whispered in awe.
The girls emerged from their hiding place. The guard held up a hand.
"I can't let all of you inside."
"You have to let Petra come in because she's my best friend," Tiara said.
"And you have to let me in because I have my period," Adina said.
"And you have to let me and Shanti in or else you're totally racist." Nicole glared.
"You have to let me in or I'll cry," Jennifer said, working up tears. (29.66-73)

It's kind of amazing how the beauty queens work together to make the guards think they're harmless. Capitalizing on stereotypes can come in handy, sometimes.

Mary Lou misses a step and the girls teeter near the edge, shrieking, but they manage to right themselves, and then they are laughing once more, leaning into one another in affection as much as support, a great chain of girl. (E.62)

The book ends with an image of friendship. No competition, no survival, just real affection for each other. Isn't that nice?

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