THE BARRACUDA GANG by Malcolm J. Bosse


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Twelve high school seniors, winners of a national essay contest on ""an aspect of the future,"" are transported by the contest's sponsor, go-go Gar Research, to a Caribbean island; at the end of their stay, three will come away with scholarships--to be awarded by means and for reasons unknown. It's a pregnant, very '80s Lord of the Flies set-up, and Bosse also extracts from it a tight-coiled sexual situation. Three of the contestants--self-possessed Ava Brock, self-contained Parker Smith, ""warm,"" ""shy"" Justin Fuller--constitute themselves, lightly, the Barracuda Gang; as Justin says, ""We get along."" (The characterization, as such, is hackneyed; the dialogue is deft.) The social cauldron bubbles with pair-ups and personality-conflicts; competition heats up between East and West volleyball teams; a local black water skier goads Justin, the best among them. The big moment, though, finds Ava, Parker, and Justin trapped in a reef cave; the water rising; and Justin, afraid he's going to die a virgin, taken in hand by sympathetic, experienced Ava. . . who, when the danger recedes and the three escape, is much troubled by what she's done (especially as Justin lets it out to loathsome Alex). Some realistic mood-swings later, she makes peace with herself and smitten Justin. Justin has his face-off with his black tormentor--whose respect he gains by refusing, though out-performed, to give up. And, less persuasively, Parker returns to the cave alone--to face the terror he wouldn't admit the first time around. There's also a recognition, on the part of the kids, that though Gar used them for publicity, ""we used them too. We accepted this trip that they paid for."" (As for the scholarships, the smoothie Gar V.P. doesn't make bad choices.) Slick, even to its barbs, but highly charged.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Lodestar/Dutton