Hard on the heels of David Owen's High School (p. 200)--and using the same modus operandi (slightly older reporter posing as a high-schooler for a year)--Crowe's book manages, however, to convey a wholly different impression from Owen's. There, the focus seemed to be on the unbridgeable gulfs between Owen and the kids; the reportorial self-consciousness was strong. In Rolling Stone-r Crowe's account, the immersion is total, fictional; he bows out of any role but that of narrator. Vignette by vignette, the focal kids take over and achieve the fullness of characters. Jeff Spicoli, the drugged-out surfer (""I wanna tell you about bongs,"" goes the beginning of his five-minute presentation in speech class); cool Mike Damone and his pal Mark ""The Rat"" Ratner; enjoy-sex-in-haste, repent-at-leisure Stacy Hamilton. The high school Crowe chose to use, in Redondo Beach, Cal., is nearly-all-white and wealthy--and this, too, has a lot to do with the book's sunniness, bounce, luster. High school for these kids in Lotusland is seldom especially awful. There are typical sexual pressures, and some job pressures (which fast-food chain you work for--merely for gas money--is a crucial barometer of status); but everyone's got a car, prom night is capped off with a Jacuzzi party at someone's house, and ""grad-nite"" at Disneyland is the ultimate bacchanalia. Abortions, sneaky social maneuverings, the very occasional strict teacher: they're nothing but specks of grit in the world-as-oyster that these kids inhabit. (Except for Jeff the surfer, heavy drug use, significantly, is passÃ‰--a junior-high ""phase"" left behind.) You accept Crowe's kids, then, more or less the way you take the Happy Days crew on TV: cute, scrubbed, bleached, and about as real as the cardboard-ad rock singers leaned up against a wall in a record store. Breezy, narratively deft--but a slickly embroidered fable of the golden, blessed, and bubbleheaded.