cover image Sweet St. Louis

Sweet St. Louis

Omar Tyree. Simon & Schuster, $24 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-684-85610-0

""Hey, miss?... You wanna make a trade with me?... A piece of me for a piece of you."" Anthony ""Ant"" Poole, a young African-American auto mechanic, believes he has a flair for pick-up lines in this overblown but lively romance by Tyree (Fly Girl). Against the hectic contemporary urban backdrop of St. Louis, Ant competes with his best friend, small-time criminal Anthony ""Tone"" Wallace, for dates. His days as a carefree Romeo are numbered, however, when he meets old-fashioned girl Sharron Francis, an airline caterer, who is trying to end an affair with a married man. Even Celena, Sharron's man-eating best friend, is jealous of Sharron's budding romance. Though Tyree relies on stereotypes and his prose is studded with distracting italics, his charting of his characters' inner motives is on target when he gets past surface description. The novel works best when the characters are one-on-one, deep in the lengthy conversations that fuel the narrative. Much as Ant bemoans the difficulties of dating a ""thinking woman,"" he soon finds himself turning into a thinking man. Or as he says to Sharron's father: ""Your daughter made me express myself."" Still, even after Sharron rejects an old flame in favor of her new love, the commitment-phobic Ant can't quite give up his hunt for new conquests. It is finally a chastisement from one of his victims and a sobering night in jail that cause him to see the error of his ways. Tyree's checkered but entertaining street romance is a raucous cautionary tale steeped in the impulsiveness, verve and arrogance of youth. (Oct.)