A social worker's account of several years' work with four juvenile delinquent girls in a Boston suburb, first in a group setting, then with individual sessions. Peacock is convincing in describing the ""hand-me-down"" cycle to which the girls nearly succumbed: hungry for love, never having had a secure childhood, each was vulnerable to teenage romance and the possibility of becoming, like their mothers and grandmothers before them, adolescent mothers. The identification with their own mothers, the need to protect an only parent going mad or ravaged by alcohol, made the girls hard to reach sometimes; but Peacock and an associate managed to lure them with the simple promise of free activities (horseback riding, swimming). Once there, they learned the value of peer support that did not depend on the kind of dues-paying that street gangs demand; and when Peacock got close enough, she managed to guide each girl through the regressions of more arrests, truancy, flights to fathers who didn't really care, or rallies around their sick mothers. Here then is Shelly, staving off the pain by rolling around in laundromat dryers until she can no longer stand it; Joyce, panicking each time she nears the symbolic break from her mother that graduation from high school represents; Evelyn, who eventually wound up a stripper in a club owned by her out-of-wedlock father. All the stories do not have happy endings, though in some cases Peacock was able to help not only the girl herself but the mother who had been without direction for so long. A deft evocation that places the reader squarely at the scene.