Victoria has spent several years in Nigeria with her loving, sensible parents; but now that she's 12, they've sent her home to Australia for school and to spend holidays with the also loving, but troubled, Trethewan family, whose constant bickering is particularly exacerbated by 14-year-old Breton--an intense loner who tries to expunge his terror of the nuclear threat by decorating his room with reminders of it and whose favorite pastime is a sort of Dungeons and Dragons game book, Labyrinth of Dead Ends, for which alternatives are chosen by throwing dice. Then Brenton and Victoria encounter Cal, who seems to be an aboriginal child (thus the object of prejudice) but is actually an extraterrestrial anthropologist from the future. Cal finds this civilization's customs curiously wrong-minded, and she hints that it will prove ephemeral. Unused to Earth's infections, however, she soon needs urgently to return home. Brenton is given a choice: to leave this doomed world and go with her, or to stay and try to make peace by following Victoria's dad's precept: ""Live as if you will die tomorrow. Garden as if you will live forever."" Rubinstein uses the provocative device of alternative conclusions here--weighting the reader's dice only slightly--and skillfully realizes the Trethewans' discord and affection with nicely selected detail that makes them unique as well as familiar. Shifting the point of view also allows readers to experience both Brenton's angst and Victoria's perspective as a newcomer. This enthralling, well-wrought novel was the Australian ""1989 Book of the Year for Older Children.