Monique W. Morris, . . Amistad, $24 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-06-621105-3

In this earnest, flawed tale of life on the streets, Morris, a senior research associate with the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, uses the familiar coming-of-age format to tell the story of Peaches, a high school girl led astray by a wily pimp, Jesus, who first seduces her with visions of the high life and then convinces her to sell her body. Raised by her grandparents after her mother's death, Peaches is the perfect victim for the fast-talking ex-con, who cures her of her churchgoing ways and turns her into his prime moneymaker, making her an example of feminine hustle to his other girls. The story takes several twists when Peaches becomes pregnant, gives birth to a son and thinks about escaping to a new life. She is encouraged when she meets Chinaka, a Black Panther actively battling the system, who befriends her and tries to convince her to walk away from Jesus before she comes to a bad end. When the story's focus shifts to Peaches's child, Jason, the narrative falters at first, but regains its momentum as the young man tries to come to terms with his criminal father's legacy. Told alternately from the first-person perspectives of Peaches, Jesus, Jason and Chinaka, the story is delivered in colloquial, dialogue-rich prose. Morris attempts to inject her grim tale with humanity and give new meaning to the old adage about the sins of the father, but the novel is often transparently didactic. As a result, the bloody conclusion comes as an ugly surprise; meant to be redemptive, it is chilling instead. 5-city author tour.(Sept.)