Kalisha Buckhanon, Author . St. Martin's $19.95 (247p) ISBN 978-0-312-33268-6

Like any good love story, this one's riddled with conflict from the get-go. Antonio and Natasha, two Harlem teenagers, are deeply in love with each other, but their relationship is put to the test when Antonio goes to jail just before their senior year for killing his father, a crime he may or may not have committed. Written in the form of letters between Antonio and Natasha, Buckhanon's debut novel captures the young lovers' anger, hope and frustration. "I got even more down too when my peoples came to visit me... Still young, still fresh with them shiny eyes and bright faces.... And all I could think while looking at you all at the same time I was looking at me was I look old, I look sad, I look used," laments Antonio in one letter. As the years pass, of course, both of their lives alter dramatically, and their feelings for each another inevitably change as well. The letters are fluent, candid and colloquial, though occasionally readers may crave dialogue and a fresh point of view. Still, this is a moving, uplifting story of love and hope in the face of adversity. Agent, Tracy Sherrod. (Jan. 13)

Forecast: Blurbs from Sapphire and Dorothy Allison and an eight-city author tour should help get this promising first novel off to a good start.