The emergence of an individual is the heart of this inchoate novel about Selindra Ryan, who came to the sunfields of California when she was going on eighth grade. Taking on protective coloring, Melinda joined Marcia Martin's gang and speeded into tragedy with Tom Abbott when freeway horseplay brought death to a boy on a bike. Returned after six years in Southern California (""the twenty-four carat mirage""), Melinda wanders into marriage to Peter White, on his way to an instructorship in the Northwest. Peter extends his instruction to Melinda, trying to bring her up, but gives up on her when she helps his prize student to cheat on exams and the student, his deceit discovered, commits suicide. At a Monterey motel, Melinda meets Cameron, a quarter manager who shares her room but not her bed. Under his tutelage, she reviews her past and renews her present. In the end, Cameron sends her back to Peter ready for a life in which moral laxity and the path of least resistance are past. Cameron's last quote for the day--""What seemed all surface at one moment seemed all depth the next""-- would not appear to apply. Still an attempt, if unsatisfying, serious in intent.