Occasionally touching first novel set in a progressive yet authoritarian boarding school for children from troubled homes. When 15-year-old narrator Kate Steiner arrives at Grove and finds herself among delinquents, mental cases, orphans, and addicts (one of whom, Patrick, becomes her boyfriend), she can't figure out why she's there: she is normal and comes from a happy home. Her classmates quickly advise her otherwise, however, and, sure enough, during her first weekend visit home, she discovers that her father has a lover and that her parents are headed for divorce. Back at school, Kate copes with teen-age secrets and conspiracies; betrayals from savvy Gwen (her best friend and roommate); her feelings for Patrick (who gives her sound emotional advice but may not--in spite of his assurances--have kicked his heroin habit); and with a school administration that excepts and encourages adolescent sexuality (sometimes mocking Kate, sometimes not believing her, for being a virgin) and then punishes it. Buffeted by teen-age anguish and genuine trauma, Kate finally seeks affirmation as she helps a weirdo genius student build a geodesic dome. Best as a brief on behalf of throwaway children--and as a picture of young people at the mercy of a disturbed gum of a headmaster. But in spite of adult vocabulary and elegance of the narrative, the 15-year-old perspective (often focused on teen-age minutiae) and the clear moral drawn from each incident would make Spiegelman's novel seem more appropriate as a YA.