JUST LIKE BEAUTY

Lisa Lerner, Author . Farrar, Straus & Giroux $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-18062-1

Edie Stein may be a 14-year-old with common adolescent concerns, but the rites of passage in the world she lives in are even more warped than the ones we know. Set in a dystopic American suburbia of the near future, this inventive comic novel opens just six months before Edie is scheduled to compete in the annual Feminine Woman of Conscience Pageant—a public ritual in which girls must not only display "Better Person Skills" and their knowledge of chemical substances but also simulate sex with the Electric Polyrubber Man and sacrifice trained rabbits and sew them into muffs. Trained assiduously by her unstable pill-popping mother, Edie wants to triumph. Yet she is conflicted about where she stands—she hasn't yet started her period, technically rendering her ineligible for the pageant—and where she wants to go. Simulated sex doesn't compare to her feelings for Lana Grimaldi, the sexy and rebellious girl next door. And dealing with her estranged parents sometimes makes her just want to run away and join submarine school. Meanwhile, as she and the other contestants get closer to pageant day, they must contend with the constant harassment from gangs of local boys known as the Blow Torchers and an alarming invasion of chemically amped-up grasshoppers. Initially, the futuristic brand-naming (Just Like Meat Planet restaurants, Just Like Beans, Sin Concealer makeup) is trying, but eventually Lerner relaxes her send-up showcasing and lets her characterizations of Edie and her family and friends shine through. Edie's struggles to forge a unique identity lead her to concoct a winning triumph all her own, and readers will be engaged by her utterly believable pluck in this most unusual coming-of-age debut. Agent, Jane Gelfman. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/03/2001
Release date: 01/01/2002
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-312-42178-6
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