The greaser gangs are no longer where it's at, but S. E, Hinton still can't get over them. At least she has the insight to build this around another kid who can't either--Rusty James, a born down-and-outer Whose self-description ("I ain't never been a particularly smart person") is an understatement. Here Rusty-James, now just "bumming around," is describing events of five or six years back. Even then the gangs had been broken up by dope, but he couldn't help trying to live up to the rep of his older brother, Motorcycle Boy, a kid who engineers his own destruction with such detachment that his sanity can only be debated in metaphysical terms. Rusty-James himself is a lot easier to figure. Sliced up the side in a knife fight, smashed over the head by two muggers, barely ambulatory throughout and always headed for the next confrontation, he is far realer than he has arty right to be. Hinton knows how to plunge us right into his dead-end mentality--his inability to verbalize much of anything, to come to grips with his anger about his alcoholic father and the mother who deserted him, even his distance from his own feelings. Even the luridly symbolic climax--when Motorcycle Boy is shot by a vengeful cop after burglarizing a pet store to liberate the Siamese fighting fish (rumble-fish, to him)--works better than you would suppose. Hinton, on her own turf, is still unbeatable, although she seems to have no more of a future, or even a present, than Rusty-James has. Not to be confused with a nostalgia piece. . . this is a remarkably preserved specimen of rebel-without-a-cause nihilism.