Ryan Rafferty is a bright, glib 16-year-old who happens to be dying of brain cancer. He's come to spend part of perhaps his last summer at Camp Hawkins, a camp in Kentucky reserved for children with cancer. (""Princes in Exile"" is what Ryan and his bunkmates decide to call themselves, although ""Vidal Sassoon's Failures""--most are bald after chemotherapy--is also suggested.) Ryan has two pressing goals: to lose his virginity and to write a publishable journal ventilating his terror, anger, and despair at dying. He soon finds, however, that the one interferes with the other: his intellectual, journal-writing side can hardly compete with the suspense and hopefulness that come with attempts at seduction--first with the camp nurse, then with a fellow camper, beautiful but one-legged Holly. First-novelist Schreiber risks bathos in order to get at the extremely un-ordinary atmospheres of the camp: the humor about death and parents' worries; the fear of the very young children (one nine-year-old is convinced his stomach tumor is actually a demon--so Ryan ""exorcises"" him); the expected but still-chilling death of one of the older boys mid-session. Less successful are Schreiber's pacing and plotting (predictable), his characterization (except for Ryan, there's a universal flatness). Still, this is a small, quick, well-aimed look into what should bean antithesis--childhood and death--but which reality serves up as a tragic combination every day.