A witty and discerning first novel that doesn't exactly tread on unfamiliar ground (the trials of coming of age in college in the 1980's) but moves with remarkable freshness in its rendering of detail, contemporary voices, and the small, telling conflicts that make up the temper of our time. The three main characters aren't pretty girls--they are smart, lively, conflicted, somewhat outsized urbane sophomores at a college where the 80's version of the southern belle reigns supreme, and hence they think of themselves as ""Amazons."" They are inseparable: they meet after classes to play defensive, catty ""scrutiny,"" study together, plan parties together, mull over their own and others' social defects. Still, they keep 80's secrets: Cool Alex can't confess that she is a compulsive dieter and sexually shy partly because she was raped at 16; Caroline doesn't know what her terror of rejection has to do with her older brother's death in Vietnam, but she can't talk about it; and bold, brilliant Penelope won't admit, even to herself, that her loveless affairs are ending in ennui and worse. Before long, the girls' conflicts become focused on attracting and evading men, particularly one sleek, smart, sympathetic classmate; they try to be ""pretty"" girls, and their friendship cracks from the temporarily unresponsive places in their lives and hearts. A simple story, not so different from Bret Easton Ellis' Less Than Zero, but filled with rich, sympathetic readings of character, time and place that set it happily apart.