Young Men on Fire By Howard Hunt (Simon & Schuster)
A bout half of the time I pick up a book I have to quit reading it after 10 pages. The author's voice annoys me, he/she is too smug, too fantastical, too stupid, or too boring. Example: I recently put one of Anne Rice's erotic books on hold at the library, called The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. I heard the book was hot, and I was psyched, but after two pages of super-cheesy drama, I was rolling my eyes and making vomit noises. I returned the book and went back to reading Penthouse's Forum Letters, which are ridiculous, but at least hot.

I mention this because Young Men on Fire annoyed me from the get go. The author, Howard Hunt, used the word "tarmac" two times in the first few pages and it was obvious he wanted to seem smart. The book also takes place a couple days before September 11, and I am wary of any fiction that chooses to mention September 11. It was as if Hunt was trying to be heavy, but sexy, and was trying too hard.

Regardless, I decided to give the book a shot because someone had recently called me a quitter and I was trying to prove them wrong. After 30 pages, I was hooked. The book follows two brothers: Jim, who is a surgeon, and Martin, who is a flashy, critical writer of books about things like the dot com boom and the dot com crash. Jim is visiting Martin in new York from Australia. The brothers spend a night in Manhattan bar-hopping along with two of Martin's annoying friends, C.C. Baxter and Big Guy. Being the younger brother, Martin is desperately trying to impress the underdressed and under-amused Jim by endlessly snorting speed (referred to as "smoot") and picking up chicks (referred to as "bunny hunting") with a patented frat boy system.

It's amusing to observe such annoying and fake human beings through the eyes of the brother, who could really give a shit. Plus, the guys do hella drugs (including the surgeon who steals speed from one of the hotshots) which is always fun to read about. The end is pretty cheesy and ties the story in a neat little bow, but it's not like you were reading War and Peace, so it really doesn't matter. KATIE SHIMER