In this soberly written but melodramatically plotted teeth-gnasher from England, 14-year-old Catherine, called Fike, longs for a home but belongs to a drifting, dropout family--theory-ridden father Jason, aimless mother Mary, and braindamaged brother Dimsy, born when Mary was ""on the hard stuff."" They are currently camped on the property of a crazy old man who lets them stay became they carry stones for his work in progress, a homemade castle. Fike, the only one to speak with him, has a few castle chess games with the stinking, gesticulating old man; and her wistful ""house peering"" in town gains her entry also into the more genteel home of two old ladies (clearly a couple--it's Kate, the mannish one, who invites her in, serves her tea, and lends her books). Britton seems more at home with the harmless old loony and with the subtler question of Kate than with her ludicrously lurid version of hippy--druggie life. But before we can leave them, Jason and Mary are joined by some old dropout friends and then by two American Vietnam veterans--one seductively handsome--who involve Fike in a successful campaign to hook the local teenagers on heroin. Soon the two dealers have snared the dropouts too; Mary is back on the hard stuff; Jason joins the crowd from sheer despair; Dimsy, on acid, flies off the castle heights and is killed; the whole tenting community (all, in Fike's words, the ""sick, corrupt, hateful, useless, meaningless, unwanted, crawling bilge"") perish in a fire probably set by the disgusted old man; and Fike moves in with Kate where she will have her own room and ""all sorts of new things."" Vengeance, with a heavy hand.