A seamless, convincing, and gruelingly honest first novel, by the 25-year-old Jackson, portrays worlds known to many Americans only through the evening news. Jazmine Deems is 26 and in a major rut: She still lives with her preacher father in her childhood home. She's working toward her master's degree at UCLA, her love life is virtually nonexistent, and, meanwhile, her real dream is to be a famous singer. Fortunately for Jazmine, her best friend, the wild but ever-loyal, street-smart Dakota, has Jazmine's best interests at heart: She wrangles invites to the annual Black Tie Records' executive party in the hopes that Jazmine can pass on a demo tape and be discovered by the label that represents all the best African-American singers. That fateful night turns out to be the beginning of Jazmine's career and of a turbulent romance with the soon-to-be-signed Black Tie artist, rapper (and conflicted gangster) Xavier ``X-Man'' Honor. Trouble in paradise pops up when X realizes that Jazmine- -despite her attraction to him--has no interest in a drug-dealing, gun-toting street punk for a boyfriend, even if he does have a record contract. And then it turns out that Bobby Strong, the Black Tie executive responsible for signing up Jazmine, is a closet coke addict on a downward spiral that threatens to end the young woman's career before it ever gets off the ground. Through it all, Dakota, X-Man's homies Rich and T-Bone, Rich's philandering girlfriend Eyeisha, and the Revered Deems must deal with Jazz and X's impending stardom, as well as the dangers of life on the streets of South-Central L.A. The glitzy facade of the high-powered, back-stabbing music industry provides an effective counterpoint to the scenes set on the deadly streets of America's most notorious ghetto: an impressive debut novel that never lets its message overwhelm the story.