Gauch plunges straight into a seething eight-grade social cauldron, where so many individual and group names (the Freaks, the Eight) are swirling by that a reader might feel like a new kid at school, left out and bewildered. You get the names straight soon enough, but you never lose the feeling of having your head held underwater. The story, in a series of high-intensity flashes, tells of the Friday night activities of a group of girls whipped up to a state of ""heat"" by their popular, glittering leader, Jan. On one occasion they drink beer, on another champagne, and on another, on the loose in a shopping center and euphoric with togetherness (""Talk about owning the world--we did""), they are egged on to a game of shoplifting follow-the-leader. One new girl, Terry, hangs on at the edges, can't bring herself to shoplift, and finally--drunk on the champagne and performing a half-nude dance in Jan's rec room-is glimpsed through a window by the eighth grade boys, who are never too far away. Suddenly Terry is a scarlet woman, the other girls shun her, and instead of showing up the next Friday at the school dance all this has supposedly been leading up to, she is hauled off by the police, apparently on drugs, from a car that her date has just stolen and wrecked. Except for Terry's melodramatic and too precipitous decline, the events are more or less credible, and kids can relate to both the girls' flushed excitement and the uneasy reservations of Corey, the narrator and one of the bunch. But the whole story has a raw, strident quality, as if Gauch is trying too hard and too heavily to share her characters' half-baked sensibility but still hasn't got it quite right.