Why Pretty Ugly by Kirker Butler is Totally Ridiculous, Yet Awesome

Fiction – SouthernPretty Ugly, Kirker Butler
Released March 31, 2015
303 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: eGalley provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Plot Summary

A satire of a dysfunctional Southern family (headed up by Miranda and Ray) whose oldest daughter (Bailey) is a regular on the child beauty pageant circuit, written by a writer of the TV show “Family Guy”.

My Thoughts

As soon as I saw this book described as a “satire about child beauty pageants”, I pounced. I should say up front that I think beauty pageants, particularly child beauty pageants, are one of the more ridiculous creations around, so my thoughts on this book come from that perspective. Pretty Ugly is essentially “Best in Show” for beauty pageants. And, here are a few reasons why it’s horrifying and ridiculous, yet awesome and hilarious…

The Pageant Names

The pageant names are so off the page that I, of course, had to Google them to see if Butler pulled from real life. While I couldn’t find any exact matches, it seems Butler possibly took real pageant names and made them just a tad more ridiculous…

Baby Princess Bar-B-Q Fest, Gorgeous Belles and Beaus Pageant (there really is a Southern Belles and Beaus National Beauty Pageant!), Little Miss Sass and Sand Princess Pageant, Miles of Smiles Perfect Face Invitational, Rebel Belles Glamboree, and Sweet Ray of Sunshine Invitational.

The Amazing Quotes

Miranda (Mom) to Ray (Dad) on why she wants another baby:

“All I want to do is make princesses, Ray! I want a houseful of princesses!”

Miranda using “pageanting” as a verb:

“Pageanting takes just as much energy as swimming. More, probably, if you count the mental part.”

Miranda to Bailey:

“So…put on your eyelashes and airbrush your knees. They look a little splotchy. […] Mommy’ll be back in a minute.”

The Reasons Pageant Winners were Stripped of their Crowns
  • A winner married her boyfriend, who she was “pretty sure” was the father of her baby (having an out of wedlock baby as a teenager is totally acceptable under pageant rules, but being married is not)
  • A winner, along with various family members, was arrested for “felony production of crystal meth with intent to distribute”
  • Allegations that a winner’s mother bribed the judges with sexual favors

Despite the fact that the premise of Pretty Ugly is completely frivolous, there is some depth to the story. The toll that Bailey’s beauty pageant circuit takes on the entire family is heartbreaking. Her parents’ marriage is in trouble, her father is overworked (paying for all that pageant paraphernalia!) and checked out (having a disastrous affair with a teenager!), her two brothers are virtually ignored, and their finances are precarious to say the least. And, the emotional impact of all the pressure Miranda puts on Bailey to perform is the most heartbreaking of all.

Pretty Ugly would make a great recovery book (I wish I’d read it right after A Little Life!) and is going on my 2015 Summer Reading List (coming in late May).

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  1. I enjoyed your review. I’m not sure if I would enjoy the satire. It seems beauty contest really are stretched to the limit though.

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  2. Gina wrote:

    I added this tony “tbr” list recently, but now am sure this will be a fun summer read. Thanks for the review!

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  3. I can’t wait to dive into this book! I’m a northener now living in the south, and these things are big down here (not that they don’t occur in the north, but they aren’t really heard about as much). That darn Toddlers and Tiaras show would suck me in if we were channel surfing, and my scoffing could be heard all over the house. Perfect read for me, thanks for the review.

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  4. Oh, my gosh…I am SO in on this one – ha! I LOVE THIS! I’d like to have a month of reading dedicated to nonfiction (inspired by Nonfiction November…maybe I’ll just link back to your posts!) and I’d like to think that I could wait and read this one then; however…it may be too good to resist. Thanks so much for the review, Sarah!

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  5. I’ve been really curious about this one! It sounds like a great read for people who enjoyed The Love Song of Johnny Valentine a few years ago. Glad to hear you liked it! It sounds so fun and ridiculous, but I’m glad to hear it has some heavier aspects, as well.

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  6. I think I’d enjoy this one, too. Great suggestion to use it as a recovery book – definitely could have used one after We Are Not Ourselves. Will keep it in mind for after A Little Life.

    Posted 4.9.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      Oh yes – We Are Not Ourselves was definitely something I needed a recovery book after! Although, I don’t think I’d grasped the whole concept of recovery books back when I read it.

      Posted 4.9.15 Reply
  7. The first thing I thought of was Honey Boo Boo, that poor over-exposed child on tv who does pageants and her dysfunctional family. This would be a book that would probably bother me and entertain me at the same time 🙂 Thanks for pointing it out!

    Posted 4.10.15 Reply
  8. Oh my goodness. I love Toddles & Tiaras (it is so entertaining, I can’t even handle it), so maybe I should really read this. Or, at the very least, include it in my Grapes of Trash feature. It’s perfect. AND I just finished A Little Life (finally), so maybe I should read it pronto!

    Posted 4.12.15 Reply
    • admin wrote:

      It is literally the PERFECT book to read right after A Little Life..I wish I had done that! I think it would be awesome for your Grapes of Trash feature (which is maybe the most amazing feature I’ve seen in awhile)! I was thinking of Toddlers & Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo the whole time I was reading…

      Posted 4.12.15 Reply

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