The tribulations of 16-year-old Frankie O'Day--who doesn't understand much about himself and doesn't learn much from his experiences. When we meet him, Frankie is leading a double life: publicly, he's a basketball letterman at ""venerable"" Loyola High in San Francisco; privately, he's ""The Shadow""--author of provocative, pseudo-profound graffiti (""What is expressed is impressed"") on the school walls. Things turn serious when the police misinterpret one particularly ill-advised graffito (""Help me/please/I don't want to kill again"") as a murder threat; but Frankie escapes discovery and begins a summer devoted to playing basketball and hanging out with his carefully variegated gang (one lady-killer, two drug addicts, one prankster, etc.). After he meets beautiful, rich Laurel, he has a few ecstatic weeks of making out before a disastrous drinking splurge brings the idyll to a halt. More trouble with the law crops up when Frankie and some friends shoot a zoo buffalo to protest the high price of meat. In the end, sadder but hardly wiser, Frankie is left contemplating a piece of advice given him early on by his has-been alcoholic father: ""Cultivate your bubble."" Daly almost succeeds in capturing some of the flavor and rhythm of adolescent street talk, but sometimes lapses into adolescent creative writing himself. In a similar vein, he seems to find Frankie's naivete and irresponsibility too attractive to allow him any growth.