. . . and a very different undertaking from anything else by Le Guin. In his own words and colloquial style, it's the story of an intellectual seventeen-year-old loner--""I was a kind of person that just does not fit into this kind of society,"" his escapist fantasy about a better kind, and his friendship with a girl his age who is dedicated to music and to her future as a composer. Natalie's plans do not include teenage romance, and after she rejects Owen's sudden attempt to introduce sex into the relationship he totals his car, ends up in the hospital, and is emotionally dead for a long time afterwards--until she helps him accept his egghead identity and they settle, for the time, on a modest kiss. It's hard these days to effect such a resolution without seeming out of touch, and even harder to project such teenagers without seeming offensively smug; but Le Guin handles Owen's very real distress and confusion without a hint of either mockery or the L'Engle/Wersba tone of self-congratulation. This time, she gives us an inner world as sharply realized (though not as fully--this runs to only 89 pages) as her previous Other ones.