A teenage misogynist and compulsive underachiever, Chuck strains to pass his boarding school entrance exams the second time around and thereby escape the constraints of his much-married mother (castrating even in her desire to alter the cat which Chuck sees as ""just part of (her) wholesale plan for the taming and domesticating of the male species"") and nymphet sister. Inevitably, he finds a mentor in the horribly scarred and romantic recluse Justin McLeod who proves a demanding tutor (smashing some straw-man defenses of ""progressive education""). And inevitably again, this relationship between two emotional cripples leads to a once-only homosexual encounter (though the unsophisticated will have a tough time figuring out from the text just ""what happened""). Chuck's bitterness is painfully real and the recognition of his sexual feelings commendably frank, but in return for this measure of honesty, the whole story is slanted to justify the ""daring"" subject matter -- the psychological underpinnings are intrusive (talk of Oedipus complexes and sibling rivalry), the twin mysteries in the pasts of Chuck's dead father and Justin unlikely, the decadence and nastiness of Chuck's family overstressed (even Gloria's obnoxious boyfriend probably wouldn't kick the cat to death). For a hero with a face and a fully realized individuality, the bulkily packaged moral (""You can be free from everything but the consequences of what you do"") just might not be too high a price to pay.