Despite some bright observations here and there, this claustrophobic first novel--the weltschmerz consciousness of a teenager straining for the usual clues to identity--is far inferior to McCorkle's second effort, published simultaneously (below). The first-person narrative of Joslyn ""Jo"" Spenser leads off with an album of snapshots--from her parents' wedding to cheerleader days at Blue Springs High. And Jo, the Miss Cordiality of her elite peers (she travels with a popular pack of four top girls), May-Queen-to-be, is just so ""in."" But smiling and flawlessly exemplifying the ""norm"" is just Jo's smoke-screen for a special ""uniqueness."" So her ego-survival tactics will be shattered, when--after mildly agreeable dates with mildly agreeable boys--Jo falls in love with Red Williams, a ruggedly sexy, good-time guy who does part-time auto repair. She becomes ""committed"" to Red--as she used to be to her (now-disapproving) friends, or Blue Springs High, or her dog. Then, however, the violence of an alien norm--Red's burning-out pals, sex in hostile places, the attempted suicide of a longtime classmate--precipitates a break with Red. And, as a college freshman, Jo suffers a breakdown--tortured by nightmares of pursuit and suffering psycho-physiological anorexic symptoms: vulnerable, assaulted, she attempts to make herself ""small"". . . until therapy brings possible resolutions of the ""spinning reels of life."" A get-it-out-of-one's-system first novel, with some talent in the raw--but mostly a distraction (and detraction) from July 7th, below.