A fatherless adolescent girl of Polish-American and Dominican descent confronts the problems of sexuality and ethnicity during a single overheated weekend in a New Jersey shore town. Thirteen-year-old Alicia fights with her alcoholic, flirtatious mother, climbs into a number of interesting and dangerous places, befriends the town rebel, shoplifts, almost makes love for the first time, gets searched by the police, and witnesses a fire--all the time contemplating the difficulties imposed on women and nonwhites in this imperfect society of ours. The novel's strength lies in its portrayal of the independent and determined Alicia, a street-smart New York kid who wants to build a life better than the one her mother leads (""sex, grass, alcohol, impulse, and a lot of explanations""). She is also obsessed with her own sexual potential; references to tits, ass, hair, and hardening nipples surface frequently. The other characters are little more than stereotypes: the horny lifeguard, the leering barflies, the bigoted townsfolk and nasty, rich old lady are cardboard figures populating a cardboard town. In a book concerned with exposing social prejudices (""He wanted to be able to think that he had been with her, believing as he did in the stereotype of the passionate Latin temperament""), such caricatures undermine the message. There is even a final Gothic conflagration in which the rich old lady's hotel burns down, flushing out hypocritical guests like rats and symbolizing an end to the values of a class-ist, sexist, racist social structure. It's far from subtle, but the heroine has enough spunk, occasional insights, and sufficient adventures to keep the story crackling.