A plodding, largely autobiographical first novel by Dur†n, now a counselor for youth gangs, examines the barrio's unbreakable hold on ``Little Mike,'' a 16-year-old Chicano growing up in WW II-era East Los Angeles. The first-person narrative follows Mike for two years, through the trials of life in T-Flats as he and his pachuco friends, ``draped'' out in their zoot-suit clothes, ``lush out'' (drink) and flirt and fornicate with the high-school girls who disregard their mothers' warnings and walk by the pachucos' hangout, the corner near Marty's Malt Shop. The boys fight with adjoining barrios, such as Fourth Flats, Kern Mara, and L'il Eastside. Then Mike, busted for protecting his turf against vigilante servicemen, ends up in a Probation Forestry Camp, fighting fires and helping build firebreaks. There, he learns leadership skills, as well as the benefits of positive peer pressure. Having always experienced a conflict between the pull of machismo and the desire to be a nice guy (he was a straight-A student before quitting in the tenth grade), he ``graduates'' from the camp and tries to break away from the barrio and become a proper husband for his ``square'' wife. But the guys are waiting on the corner. And the mystical hold of the barrio and the lure of the pachucos' camaraderie exert a pull that he can't resist. Marred by the author's monotonous recounting of his protagonist's every move, regardless of its significance, and the absence of well-developed scenes, but nonetheless a good description of the machismo, adrenaline addiction, and territorial imperative of a pachuco's life in the barrio.