A budding delinquent who gets out of the gang before he gets into a rut, in a brisk, bright and unforced story. Woodie Jackson, at thirteen, feels like a nobody: his parents are too strict, his grades are so-so, his friends don't go to Settlement House. Slick Leroy and funny Sonny beckon, and Woodie joins the Scorpions. First he acts as a decoy while they pocket stuff at Jake's Bargain Store (and what a great scene when they divide the loot); then he's the knifeless member when they meet a Puerto Rican gang down some mean streets. At a crucial moment he refuses to leave the bleeding Sonny after the fight even though it means getting caught; that (in addition to being an only child in a model upwardly mobile home) separates him from the others and catalyzes the individualist solution. The disciplinary sequence that follows is artfully fuzzy: no one asks what he thinks or feels, they just want the facts, and his parents won't even find out how Sonny is. And then his probation officer shows, and he knows what's up, gently hinting--a simple question, a warm gesture--the way between gang spirals and the parental straightwalk. Gangs were bigger in the fifties but these guys--without dope, alcohol, sex or even a casual cigarette--are saying something that goes for more kids than the Scorpions.