By Margot Mifflin
Updated June 28, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nineteen-year-old Bennington Bloom — named for the Vermont liberal arts college — gets a radical education when she becomes a high-class call girl to put herself through school. Imagine Holden Caulfield’s sister, Phoebe, growing up and turning tricks to study acting, and you have Bloom, an earnest neurotic with a father complex who attempts to conceal her livelihood from her hunky new boyfriend. Alternately vulnerable and self-possessed, Bloom is the main attraction of this book, but there are others: a riveting plot with menacing undercurrents and creepy details, a cast of colorful minor characters, and a happy but not sappy ending. Going Down is loaded with comical ironies (after giving up prostitution, Bloom auditions to be an antiporn activist, reasoning ”I figured I could be a woman against pornography during the day and do phone sex or something at night”). This is a wonderfully aberrant, compulsively readable novel. A