Elfman's novel of troubled over-privileged kids in tinseltown is charged with a vitality and unfiltered veracity that makes it fuller and sharper than the usual made-for-YAs novel. The whistler is Arnie Schlatter, the misfit in an achieving family, who plays the harmonica well and passionately and drives his remedial English teacher bonkers with his untraceable, floating whistle. His companions are fellow dumpees in the remedial class: leader Barry, who consumes conspicuously, makes free with a sophisticated array of drugs, dictates the classroom disruptions, and dotes on his film director father; clownish Red, a mobster's son, who follows Barry's lead; black Arthur, inseparable from his pet tarantula, who resents his wealthy parents' educated ofay ways; and luscious Mathilda, who promises Arnie everything but fixes him up instead with her fat, flashy friend Francie. The occasion of the date is a party at Barry's to celebrate their defeat of the English teacher; and though Arnie feels betrayed by Mathilda's switch, the talentless Francie, under the impression that she'll be auditioned there by the famous director, pressures him to take her. Then Arnie comes to feel for the bluffing, brittle, deeply unhappy Francie, and there are some touching moments between them, before and after Arnie realizes that the other kids are setting both of them up . . . and driving Francie, it turns out, to another of her several attempts at suicide. There are also some crackling classroom war scenes, some devastating views of the group in action (Elfman makes a horrifying climax of the rejected Barry's squashing of Arthur's tarantula), some wrenching family confrontations, and some realistic, groping first steps by Arnie toward finding his own direction and asserting his right to take it.