Just Like Beauty

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Lisa Lerner in Just Like Beauty presents a bleak look at the future, a future which clearly has its beginnings in the late-twentieth century.

Edie, fourteen, is being prepped by her mother for the Feminine Woman of Conscience Pageant. She will be competing in categories such as Freestyle Walking, Better Person Skills, and Hair Construction, but also in the Electric Polyrubber Man Event which entails seducing an anatomically correct male figure and in the Sacrificial Rabbit Raising Event in which she will kill her trained rabbit and fashion a muff from its skin. The winner of the contest must be both a “brain”—she’ll compete in Mystery Powders, identifying chemical compounds—but also a seductress trained in the skills traditionally considered feminine.

Edie has before her diverse role models: her mother, the official crafts woman of the Virtue Club, who regulates her moods with prescribed drugs and inhalants from her Just Like Lemon Spray Wax, and Lily Gates, the nom de guerre of a revolutionary, who questions where society is headed. And from all indications the culture is self-destructing as evident in the increasingly voracious grasshoppers that feed on insecticide; the Blow Torchers, a gang of adolescent boys who traumatize and defile the pageant contestants; and the fifty-percent rate of breast cancer.

Although the characters are not fully fleshed out and the plot is at times problematic, readers will not be disappointed. With its scathing critique of contemporary culture, the novel issues a wake-up call for all of us.