Most Anticipated: The Great First Half 2021 by The Millions
New York’s last bohemia—the glittering, decadent downtown club scene of the 1980s—is the setting for this brilliantly winning novel about a smart, vulnerable young woman taking a deep dive into her dark side, essential for fans of Sweetbitter, Fleabag, and books by Patti Smith.
New York, 1984: Twenty-two-year-old Phoebe Hayes is a young woman in search of excitement and adventure. But the recent death of her father has so devastated her that her mother wants her to remain home in Baltimore to recover. Phoebe wants to return to New York, not only to chase the glamorous life she so desperately craves but also to confront Ivan, the older man who painfully wronged her.
With her best friend Carmen, she escapes to the East Village, disappearing into an underworld haunted by artists, It Girls, and lost souls trying to party their pain away. Carmen juggles her junkie-poet boyfriend and a sexy painter while, as Astrid the Star Girl, Phoebe tells fortunes in a nightclub and plots her revenge on Ivan.
When the intoxicating brew of sex, drugs, and self-destruction leads Phoebe to betray her friend, Carmen disappears, and Phoebe begins an unstoppable descent into darkness. She may have a chance to save herself—and Carmen, if she can find her—but to do it she must face what’s hiding in the shadows she’s been running from—within her heart and in the dangerous midnight streets.
A love letter to gritty 1980s New York City, Astrid Sees All is an irresistible, original novel about female friendship, sex and romance, and what it’s like to be a young woman searching for an identity.
Standiford (The Secret Tree) makes her adult fiction debut with an infectious if overwrought tale of obsessive friendship and identity set in the gritty Lower East Side of 1980s New York City. Phoebe Hayes moves to the Upper West Side to be near Carmen Dietz, a girl from her college whose cavalier attitude and cosmopolitan sensibility instantly captivates Baltimore-bred Phoebe. Phoebe becomes enmeshed in Carmen's life, and they move downtown to be near the nightclub scene. After Phoebe's father dies of leukemia, she takes a job at the hip club Plutonium as a fortune-teller named Astrid, and her life revolves around partying with Carmen. But then young women from the neighborhood begin to go missing and Phoebe feels like she's being followed. Carmen's approval is crucial to Phoebe, though after Phoebe hooks up with Carmen's artist boyfriend, their friendship fractures. A bizarre plot turn will leave readers scratching their heads, and stilted metaphors don't help ("My immune system was fighting off an infection of grief"), but Standiford evokes the setting with spot-on details, including cameos by John F. Kennedy Jr. and Andy Warhol, and she does a good job developing the friendship between the two women. Unfortunately, the missteps undermine Phoebe and Carmen's engaging dynamics.