Joel grapples with a nightmare turned real: his best friend, Tony, drowns while they're swimming alone together, and Joel must carry the bad news home. Deftly, Bauer contrasts the two: Tony, a persuasive daredevil; Joel, less imaginative and perhaps too responsible, like his protective father. To Joel's dismay, his father has given permission for a bike trip on which Tony secretly plans a dangerous rock climb. Not knowing that Tony can't swim, Joel lets him persuade him to essay the forbidden Vermillion River as a safer alternative. Taunts and dares lead inexorably to the tragedy: Tony vanishes, and after a desperate attempt to find him, Joel returns alone. In trauma, he fears his father's wrath and through a bitter day conceals the truth; when it emerges he blames first his father, then himself for the tragedy; but his father, a wise, loving parent, helps Joel to see that he, Joel and Tony have all made choices; Joel and his father will have to learn to live with theirs, hard as it is. A gripping, compassionate portrayal of a boy's struggle with conscience, by the author of Rain of Fire (Jane Addams Award).