Alex McDonald is a Yale freshman who signs an anti-apartheid petition offered him by senior Jill Lanigan. Jill becomes his focus quickly: her poise and her lesbianism and her bravery. At a party, Jill mixes it up with some loutish male students and is battered to the floor; a few weeks later she will die from the injury. Alex can hardly process all this reality: college, homosexuality, intolerance, jealousy, snobbery--and spends a good deal of the novel either hungover, sick in the infirmary, or simply dazed (``I tried, but I couldn't get myself to walk fast enough. All at once there was a thick, viscous cement in my legs, and I felt trapped within a wide-angle movie shot where the blip at the vanishing point walks and walks toward dead center but makes no perceptible progress''). First-novelist Kennedy wins points for his earnestness in chronicling the initial encounters with Life's Great Mysteries, a college-novel's classical concern; but his debut lacks cure and finish. It reads like an updated, politically correct Love Story, and nothing more (```I just want you to stop being so morbidly fascinated with me. I don't live on some inner groove, and I don't live on a pedestal, all right? I'm an outsider. I had to define my own space, and it's still crashing in around me all the time'''). It's Yale, with its not-very-mysterious mysteries, you sense, that is the essential lure here: substitute LSU, or Northwestern, or Beloit and would you (or the publisher) care?