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She goes 'Yeah' and he goes 'Wild, Man', but at least nobody goes 'And I was like - aah - like - whatever...' in Frank's exploratioin of the dangerous border country at the edge of adolescence in this-is-now America. Alex, our first-person guide to the territory, is 12 and her psychiatrist parents send her to a private alternative school - 'funny schools', they called them in the sixtes when such places thrived in a spirit of Summerhill experimentation. Many of those schools were staffed by thoughtful, pioneering teachers. Here, however, Alex is taught by Simon, a close relative of the uncaring Robin Williams teacher in Dead Poets' Society, who was so full of his own charisma that he failed to notice one of his students wandering down the path to suicide. Simon is less self-absorbed than the Williams character, but he does do some stupid things while peddling his ersatz wisdom to his young students. You have to wonder which educational planet he has been on when he crawls into a crowded tent in the middle of the night to bed down alongside 12-year-old girls, or hugs them long and tight when they are upset, or nips off for a song with his (adult) girlfriend in a supermarket car park in full view of a student with whom he's on a shopping errand. He is an easy target for new girl Stacy, the damaged victim of her own father. Stacy poisons her classmates' impressionable minds, provoking painful doubts and a sense of betrayal. Such a tangled web is not unwoven without casualties. This is one of those books which exposes the fallacy of the C S Lewis dictum that 'no book which is really worth reading at the age of ten' - or 10-14 in this case - 'is not equally ... worth reading at the age of fifty.' That may be true of the books we would like children to like, but this book captures an adolescent voice speaking to adolescent areas of anxiety and confusion, while probably alienating bookish adults. It does not exploit its readers' concerns, it has narrative energy to keep the pages turning, and its language will not deter British readers accustomed to the idiom through television, movies and the ubiquitous universal codes.