The staff of a high-school newspaper discovers the power and perils of crusading journalism in this busy "us-against-the-system" novel. Nathan Hale High's monthly Town Crier has an unimpressive history, but its dynamic new crew is out to change that. Can choleric Principal Garland get away with his drug-sniffing guard dogs who never catch anyone'? Can Coach Whitmore flout the rules by keeping an academically failing star on the football team? Can certain instructors quietly pass out answers to standardized tests? Not on your life! Led by teacher Hank Choate, the Town Crier's talented reporters and photographers (plus an anonymous, apparently omniscient gossip columnist) rip out exposÇ after expose, tackle tough issues from cheating to date abuse, and repeatedly take it on the chin from an angry, embarrassed administration. When Choate is told that his contract won't be renewed, his students loyally organize a protest that persuades the school board to reverse the decision. Characterizations are not complex here but the cast is varied enough to develop believable rivalries, friendships, and budding romance and to keep the subplots rolling, even though most of the action takes place offstage. Malmgren treats students with respect, but, except for Choate--who has a well-developed set of journalistic ethics--faculty and administration come across as offbeat, incompetent, and, in one case, probably insane. Still, an entertaining tale of politics and power, with some thoughtful comments on responsibility and the wise use of media.