Jennifer Belle, . . Riverhead, $24.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-185-6

Brimming with Gotham references, weird but lovable characters and typical urban scenes, Belle's second novel (after Going Down, which won her the title of Entertainment Weekly's Best New Novelist of 1996) is a witty and engaging tale of love and real estate in Manhattan. Liv Kellerman is 26 and recently divorced. In classic New York fashion, she's more upset about leaving her snazzy uptown digs than being single. Too proud to ask her wealthy father for money and lacking an advanced degree, she hits the pavement in search of a job and an apartment—two things every 20-something in the city has had to struggle to secure. After she finds herself a shabby one-bedroom in Greenwich Village, "five flights above a 'restaurant' called King Shawarma," she works on employment. Liv ventures into the cutthroat world of real estate, gets her license and is soon spending her days showing TriBeCa lofts to the city's most discriminating clients. She's surprisingly good at it, and her new profession turns out to be therapeutic, too—her forays into Manhattan's most wanted apartments teach her a thing or two about her own inner workings. Like all New York stories, this one features an eccentric romance: here, a noncommittal boyfriend with a proclivity for biting (at one point, Liv must visit an animal hospital to have her ear reattached to her head). Belle's tongue-in-cheek style and laugh-out-loud antics keep the pages turning. Despite the lack of a riveting story line, this latest addition to the booming yuppie fiction genre is fresh and invigorating. 8-city author tour. (May 7)