Astrid Sees All

By Natalie Standiford. (Atria Books, 272 pages, $27.)

In 1985, I read "Bright Lights, Big City" by Jay McInerney in my small apartment in Cincinnati. I never thought about the fact that the young women in McInerney's novel were merely paper dolls, not even sidekicks. The same could be written of Michael Chabon's "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh," which I read in 1988, when my husband and I were in our first house and I was pregnant. Or even, "The Catcher in the Rye," J.D. Salinger's only novel, which I read twice in 1974, first hating it and then loving it. All were coming of age novels, boys' stories. Natalie Standiford's debut adult novel, "Astrid Sees All," gives a girl's perspective to the gritty streets and clubs of New York City in 1984.

Baltimore-raised Phoebe Hayes believes, as we all did then, in friendship and loyalty, and the importance of experiences and chance meetings. She sees in her college friend and New Yorker Carmen Dietz the key to the magic and power of Manhattan. After graduating from Brown University, they take on the city in all its edgy glory — broken glass, menacing characters, cocaine-laced nights. They reside in a dive apartment in a sketchy neighborhood within walking distance of clubs. They keep their parents at bay, by not giving out addresses, or landline phone numbers, and finding jobs to pay their own way. Standiford captures New York when it was dangerous and affordable. A place where the intrepid could pursue their dreams. Phoebe's story is worth the read and the ride.