The wisecracking young narrator of Carter's thoroughly winning first novel is determined to learn about life the hard way--on her own, on the road. All of 18 years old, this street-smart kid survives a risky cross-country trip through pluck, luck, and the kindness of strangers. Orphaned Annie Frazelli was, as she puts it, ""hatched whole from a hard, tough place in the earth."" Though her good-hearted Aunt Marie, a bail-bondsman, has tried to soften things for her rebellious niece, life in the room behind Marie's office just doesn't make it. Ever since she can remember, Annie's felt a greater tie with Marie's friend, Jotta, a vegetarian pill-popper, married to a violent Hell's Angel. As soon as Annie's legal, she abandons the mean streets of her native San Francisco for the long, not-so-lonesome highway that stretches cross America. The first stop is Wyoming, where her older lover--and former English teacher--lives out a Tom McGuane-style fantasy that Annie recognizes for the macho posturing it is. Ready to bolt, Annie joins a grandfatherly bluegrass singer for a ride east, only to discover that this wise old gent is a devious drug-dealer as well. On Cape Cod, she finds her old friend Jotta, remarried, pregnant, and stable--all, though, is threatened by Annie's arrival, for the psycho-biker has followed her all the way. In a beautifully poetic ending, Annie inherits Jotta's burden--her romantic attraction to danger--and once again hits the road. Annie's offbeat vision (a charming blend of innocence and experience) enriches her Kerouacian adventures, and makes for a splendid novel--a spirited celebration of love and loyalty.