Growing up with World War II in Birney, Illinois--where Artie Garber turns eleven just about when Pearl Harbor happens. . . and when his revered older brother Roy joins the Marines. Artie's sweetly thrilled by everything, the new and important words like ""Duration"" and ""priorities,"" the advice in Collier's on how to go about spotting German and Japanese aircraft over Illinois. And even a Boy Scout can do war work, he figures, such as harassing the local Chinese laundryman on suspicion of actually being Japanese--and a spy to boot. But with Roy away in the South Pacific, Artie's most solemn task is the proprietory one of watching over Roy's cheerleader-girlfriend Shirley. So, snaffled by pubescent sex himself, Artie will have a riverside talk with Shirley, both of them bemoaning their glandular hungers (the novel's best scene); and the sharp eye he must keep on Shirley--who naturally strays a little, thus devastating Artie--gives this book its modest forward thrust. But Wakefield (Going All the Way, Starting Over), having laid down a greasy coat of nostalgia, has a hard time steering a story through it with much command: Roy returns wounded and tarnished--a rake, a beerdrinker, a layabout; and Attic decides to step in, arranging it so that Shirley will be Roy's redeemer--in a predictable, corny windup. Nice wartime atmosphere and terrific Artie/Shirley dialogue, then, but a very small-scale, TV-movie-ish entertainment overall.