Driven Snowe

Couch World by Cathy Yardley
(Red Dress Ink, $12.95, PG-13) ISBN: 0-373-895-097
Couch World is the latest entry in Red Dress Ink's line of books designed to reflect the lifestyles of today's single women. There is no real romance in this book; it's solidly in the "chick lit" genre.

P.J. Sherman, better known to the hip club scene of San Francisco as "D.J. P.J.", lives a modern Bedouin lifestyle. She sleeps on a different couch every night and spins her music into the wee hours of the morning. Her entire life is carried around in a blue duffle bag, but don't call her homeless. After all, she has her laptop, her iPod and her best friend Sticky, a club bouncer who acts as her "couch pimp.

Joining PJ in her world of clubs and music are two other women. 19 year-old model Samantha and 35 year-old Leslie. Each one has been a "couch" for PJ but their interest in her goes beyond that.

All three women have their issues, as one can imagine. P.J. gives off the veneer of having it all together but it's obvious that she's running away from something. Even though her dream is to make it big as a professional D.J., when big name D.J. Jonathan Hadies offers to manage her, she has her doubts. She doesn't want to "sell-out", dress like someone she isn't or have to promote herself.

Samantha is balancing college, modeling and an exhausting nightlife. Though she is undeniably beautiful and sexy, she can see that her modeling career is already waning. She is desperate not to become a has been at nineteen, so she worms her way in to being P.J.'s stylist in order to impress Jonathan. She never really liked P.J. to begin with, but when Jonathan starts showing obvious signs of interest in the scruffy, D.J., Samantha is launched into serious jealousy and she sells out P.J. to reporter Leslie.

Leslie has had six careers in the last eight years and is currently the personals editor at a small time San Francisco weekly. She wants to be promoted to the features department partly to be a real writer but mostly because her long time boyfriend Rick has made it clear that he won't marry her before she's had a chance to fulfill her career, lest she regret it her whole life. I wasn't quite sure what that was all about, but apparently Leslie did. She sees P.J. as her big chance to write a hip, edgy story that will impress the un-impressible features editor - and get a ring on her finger.

The book alternates between P.J.'s first person perspective and third person from the point of view of Samantha and Leslie. The author makes each transition smoothly, and it's a style that works.

Yardley creates a rich vision of the San Francisco club scene. She bandies about terms like "Drum and Bass" and "trance music", and while this reader had no idea what she was talking about, it didn't matter. The terms were used so naturally that they set the mood without needing to know what they meant. Yardley also blends the excitement of the club scene with the subtle sense of desperation that makes it appealing even to those who are not into it.

She is less successful with her characters, however. Samantha I'm willing to forgive, because she's only nineteen. Leslie on the other hand is very frustrating. How does one get to age thirty-five without any real sense of growing up? The handling of her desire to be a features writer was bothersome. She admits to never having done any real writing, just saying that she thinks she'll love it. At her age she really should be beyond the whole "Hey, maybe I'll be a writer because that sounds fun" stage.

P.J. straddles the line between the two. While she also needs a healthy dose of growing up, she at least has a reason for the way she lives her life. She is refreshing in her refusal to compromise herself just to please others. The mystery of what drove her to "Couch World" is trickled out at just the right pace to keep the reader wondering what happened and wanting to find out. My favorite character, however, was Sticky, the gentle giant bouncer. Here is a guy with his act together and he acts as a touchstone for all three women.

Couch World was an interesting, if imperfect read. Don't come to it looking for romance, but rather for a hip, entertaining time.

--Anne Bulin

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