When Boone, his friend Danny, and their soccer team are invited to Australia, they raise money by organizing a Trashathon, gathering pledges from nearly everyone in their small California town--even Meyer ("Miser") Tate, notorious slumlord. Boone is having trouble figuring out grown-ups: the hostile town drunk, Damon ("Damaged Goods") Goodey behaves predictably, but Tate doesn't seem as bad as he's made out to be; on the other hand, Boone's own good-hearted but absent-minded father has been arrested for arson. Sure of his dad's innocence, Boone persuades Tate to put up a $10,000 reward for the capture of the real arsonist--who proves to be Tate himself, who ignited his own property for the insurance. Fortunately, it's Boone who collects the reward, since the original trip money has disappeared--along with another incomprehensible adult, Danny's "stepmother, sort of." As in many first novels, the mood here changes frequently as the author deals with a hatful of issues: racism, class prejudice, self-realization, ethics, friendship, family values, etc.--Boone's description of San Puerco as a town so quiet that "ducks sleep on the streets" is belied by events. But an engaging story with a lively, thoughtful-provoking cast.