The downward path to wisdom, as pursued by Marcus--who's called ""Jamaica"" at his Bronx high school though he's really just come from St. Cruz. Taunted and challenged by the other boys at school, Marcus beats two in a fight and then becomes friends with one of them, the red-eyed Ron. But drunken, surly Eddie won't let it be, and Marcus, always impulsive and short-tempered, ends up knifing him in the stomach. The book alternates between that incident, followed by Marcus' frantic flight by subway around the city, and flashbacks showing his troubles at school and with his father, his overworked parents' breakup, his level-headed girlfriend's attempts to steer him straight, his lucrative job selling dope with Ron until the boss dealer gets shot up, and his return to school determined to reform on the very morning of the knifing. When the memories trail back to St. Cruz toward the end, the one-on-one switch between past and present gets in the way and the story bogs down, despite the island ambience and glimpse of Rastifarian culture. But the end, at the police station with both parents, is a fitting one of reconciliation and good resolutions. And the depiction of the city's pressures on a ""home boy"" has readers empathizing with Marcus at his rashest and wrongest moments.