Winner of the new Maxwell Perkins Prize, this gifted first novel derives considerable energy and interest from its quirky format and tone (cute cynicism knowingly played to the hilt); but it ultimately suffers--in terms of involvement and depth--from the insistent jazziness. The book consists of two alternating elements, both focused on 18-year-old Anne Sarah Foster of San Francisco. First, there are sections from Heritage, the debut novel that Annie is writing--and narrating--about her mother (a suicide) and her crazy father. And then, interleaved, there's Annie's correspondence with a New York editor--who has been sent Annie's manuscript (unsolicited) and who will eventually become Annie's first lover during a San Francisco business trip. These author/editor letters--about Annie's determination to be famous, about her knowingness and vulnerability, about the editor's shlemeil-y personality--are an almost constant delight. Meanwhile, too, the chapters from Annie's novel about her mad parents offer glimpses of an intriguing story: mother Kate, talented Yale-trained actress, gives up the Broadway boards to marry the love of her life--Matt, her college drama professor from back in Oregon; children follow (Annie and a younger sister); Kate grows bored with Oregon, with Matt, with her aborted career; this tableau of despair--Kate's histrionic gestures, wild language, weird parenting--leads up to her suicide at 36. And there's added appeal in how Annie narrates her sad story: having inherited all of mother Kate's most infectious traits (vivacity, foul-mouthedness, freedom), she tells the tale more with jokes than tears. Unfortunately, however, this novel-within-a-novel never becomes the central core needed for the book to work: the fragmentation is fatal. And the constant ping-ponging back and forth between novel and letters is compounded by the relentlessness of Dukore's poppity, side-of-the-mouth narration. Still, if the result here is a hyperactive fiction debut that never settles down long enough to be compelling, it's also a steadily interesting first novel: quick, electric, and enormously promising.