Since Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack! (1972), Kerr has been publishing popular, award-winning fiction for young adults, often breaking new ground with the social issues that are intrinsic to her plots; here, the discovery that an admired older brother is a homosexual dying of AIDS is the catalyst in a period of self-discovery for the protagonist. Erick, 17, comes from an ordinary Long Island family: Mom, who is the supportive parent; Dad, who works on Wall Street and is judgmental enough to provoke rebellion but not outright war; Pete, 27, who hasn't realized his early promise. Erick is nonplussed when his best friend, Jack, falls for Nicki, who flaunts her sexuality and status as an outsider; steady Erick has long been tree to nice Dill. The revelation that Pete has AIDS tips the balance of Erick's world, so that when Nicki tries to seduce him (in the swimming pool of her father's motel, the Kingdom by the Sea), he meets her eagerly half-way, proving his heterosexuality but losing his two closest friends. Mourning this loss but absorbed by Nicki, Erick, like his brother, keeps important events in his life secret; only when Nicki abandons him after finding out about Pete does Erick begin to confront the issues raised by Pete's impending death, the issues of interlocking relationships among friends, lovers and family overriding the issue of the ostracism Pete and his household meet as his condition becomes known. A compassionate portrait of a family meeting the stress imposed by tragedy and trying to avert the additional tragedies that can be precipitated by stress. Although cracks are exposed, the experience will strengthen the whole; Erick is drawn closer to Pete even as he learns how different they are. Kerr has again met the challenge of using a particular problem to shed understanding on the human condition.