Astrid Sees All

Atria. Apr. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781982153656. $27. F
The first adult novel from YA and children’s author Standiford (The Secret Tree) is a whirling trip back to New York City in the 1980s. Recently graduated from Brown University, sensitive Phoebe Hayes escapes her Baltimore home and the sudden death of her father, and moves to New York City. She’s obsessed with her elusive college friend Carmen, a New York native who seems to have all the cool accoutrements: showbiz-adjacent parents, a heroin-addicted boyfriend living in a squat, and social connections. Carmen and Phoebe move into an apartment on the Lower East Side and immerse themselves in the neighborhood’s nightlife, drinking, drugging, and scraping by on coffee shop wages. Phoebe lucks into a gig telling fortunes at the trendiest club in the neighborhood; she adopts the name Astrid and soon gathers a loyal clientele of scenesters and celebrities. Carmen and Phoebe both get involved with a hunky artist; Phoebe sees ghosts in Tompkins Square Park; posters of missing girls litter the streets. When Phoebe and Carmen have a falling-out, Phoebe is cast dangerously adrift.
VERDICT Standiford’s novel is worth reading for its dark and dazzling depiction of New York’s “last bohemia” and believable youthful recklessness and angst. But too many plot lines and an unconvincing, overstuffed climax result in a work that falls short.
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