A debut that proposes a future in which teenaged girls care about nothing except sadistic beauty pageants requiring them to skin rabbits and neck with life-size male dolls.
Edie Stein is 14 and living in the nowhere-in-particular suburb of Deansville, a futuristic plasticene hell. Her mother is a wiry bunch of raw nerve endings and drug-frazzled housewife angst; her father is an odd fellow who spends far too much time pinning dead insects to boards and fending off his wife’s insults. The primary task in the Stein household, at least according to Edie’s mom, is readying Edie for the annual Feminine Women of Conscience Pageant. As the story opens, Edie is being coached by her increasingly furious mother in the Electric Polyrubber Man erotic arts event and wondering whether she even wants to continue in the pageant. In one of the primary events—Edie’s not too excited about it—she has to kill and skin the rabbit she’s been raising and training for months and turn it into a muff. Other things have been distracting Edie recently, too, like the heart-rending crush she has on the cute neighbor girl Lana Grimaldi. The day of the pageant draws closer, but Edie wants less and less to do with it, what with spending all her time trying to be with Lana, avoiding the Blowtorchers—the local gang who love nothing more than to bother and possibly disfigure pageant girls—and dealing with her mother’s mounting neuroses. There’s some good satire here, though Lerner’s targets can feel too easily chosen. Suburbs? Beauty pageants? Excessive consumerism? Lines like “She blew up the Just Like Meat Planet at the Identity Mall” can work just fine, but there’s a bluntness to many of the jabs here.
Funny and imaginative, but a science-fictional satire that takes the easy way out.