Camden Girls by Jane Owen, Penguin, $118 After 15 years spent avoiding work after dropping out of school, Jane Owen, encouraged no doubt by her youthful victory in an essay contest, took to her computer to write a book. Fortunately, London-born Owen's lack of interest in working was not accompanied by a lack of talent. And after the initial shock of her somewhat stream-of-consciousness style and chunks of punctuation-free text, Camden Girls proves to be surprisingly engrossing and well-written. Surprisingly, because not only the style but the content are potentially alienating to anyone who has clocked up more than three decades and has managed to find satisfaction in life without all-night parties and snorting cocaine up battered nostrils. For these Camden girls - named for the trendy north London suburb that is their base - are, like Owen herself, 'in the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of gainful employment'. Camden Girls covers three days in the life of Juno, a likeable small-time drug dealer, and her mates: a relentless drugs, booze, music and party-filled weekend packed with personal crises ranging from unwanted pregnancy to broken relationships. It is told in the third person through Juno's thoughts, conversations and activities, and the three days are broken not by chapters but by times. The style is easy enough to catch on to, and the breakneck pace captures brilliantly the lives of these young women, the beat of the music and the surges of drug-induced energy that drive them. The reader is swept along even though nothing much really happens, while Owen builds rounded and credible characters with empty lives and little reason to step off the roller-coaster and into suits and nine-to-five jobs. The failings of men are a constant theme in the conversations of Juno and her girlfriends, and this provides a hard, perceptive edge below the jolly banter. There will be many for whom Camden girls are a shallow, drug-crazed waste of time, and the morally righteous will find the book's mix of lewd humour, bad language, and drug and alcohol use and abuse offensive. But for many others - and not only those who are themselves young and fed-up - it will strike a chord. It is a deceptively simple book, but a clever one. And although some will see Juno as little more than a criminal and a drain on the British taxpayer, Owen paints her as an intelligent and caring young woman who is loyal to her friends and, while questioning the world around her and her place in it, is true to herself.