At 25, Junie is at a crossroads in her life: settling in with drummer boyfriend Leon has been hard, especially after meeting Eliot, a washed-up writer looking for a muse. And Junie isn't sure what she wants from life. A career? Marriage? Or to continue to avoid success and happiness by sabotaging everything good in her life?

Swain's debut shows great promise, with rich, believable characterizations. These are flawed people leading flawed lives, and they wrap themselves in angst and hope as they flounder toward a meaningful future together. If there is a problem here, it is with Swain's insistent focus on the quirky, which becomes tiresome and occasionally silly. Does Eliot's cat really need to be the reincarnation of Junie's lover from a past life for this story to succeed? Such extraneous plot twists detract from an otherwise stunning narrative.

Junie is likeable in spite of her flaws, Eliot is pathetically smarmy, and everyone should have a boyfriend like sensitive Leon. Their story isn't always upbeat, but it is always compelling. (Sep., 306 pp., $12.00)

Reviewed by: 
Donna Carter