Two young writers from New Jersey got tired of the images of apathetic, pessimistic, cynical slackers that ""guys in their forties"" have been creating and set the record straight with a collection of short stories that offers honest snapshots of America's Generation X. They've selected stories with no agenda in mind -- except that they didn't want to have an agenda, just good stories by ""some young people and what's happening in their worlds."" All the tales demonstrate that cynicism and pessimism mix with hope, faith, passion, and principle. Often, people with every reason to give up don't. In ""Looking Out for Hope,"" Bryan Malessa's college graduate writes a powerful letter to Raymond Carver about not getting by on his minimum-wage job. And in Elizabeth Tippens's ""Back From the World,"" a broken-hearted maintenance worker, who has perversely decided not to get over the love of his life, learns that it's time to move on. In other stories, amoral drifters realize they do have principles. Dean Albarelli's Percodan-using ex-journalist poses as a supermarket security guard to bribe an equally lost shoplifter in ""Winterlude""; when they become lovers and she asks him to help her get even with her mother, he recognizes for the first time that there are limits to what he will do. And in ""Lovelock,"" Fred G. Leebron's ex-con doesn't take the obvious escape route from a one-night stand. Throughout, people are putting themselves back together after the likes of childhood abuse (Nicole Cooley's ""The Photograph Album"") and memory loss (Mitch Berman's ""Wabi""). Others are self-destructing in the false perfection of suburbia (Chris Hallman's ""Utopia Road"") or the conservative restraints of a law firm (David Foster Wallace's ""Girl with Curious Hair""). This succeeds because it doesn't read differently from any other collection of good writing. Every voice is strong, moving, and meaningful.