Worthwhile construct, wordy development. Vic Shall, paroled from reform school to the foster parentage of the Chapmans, has a past that's left him critical, slightly lame, restless, and extremely frightened. ""The reason he boasts is because he's trying to compensate for his own imaginary inadequacy,"" explains Millie Hunter, who falls in love with him at first sight and agonizes periodically thereafter. Ralph and Wilma Chapman, probation officer Motley, the local fuzz, his teachers, even the garageman who hires him--all agree he has potential but lacks discipline. Vic starts running with local hoods whenever things are slow and frustrating; despite the efforts of all concerned for his welfare, he ends behind iron doors within six months--and they think he is more comfortable there. Crucial scenes are consistently slowed by detailed case histories: Vic dislikes Wilma's Swedish meatballs but first the narrator intrudes Wilma's ancestral heritage, the recipe's route from Sweden to California and Ralph's usual responses before she is allowed to lose her temper. Reaching, but overwrought.