A skilled author explores the family pressures that impel a talented 17-year-old to opt for time at a low-status job before considering college. George's lawyer father has had the lives of his four children planned since birth, but reality doesn't conform. Eldest child Trish has married after two years at college; Jeri is sneaking out with boys in the wee hours; the youngest, Ollie, doesn't do well in school. But it's George who asserts his independence: deliberately failing to get into his father's chosen colleges, he gets a job at a garden center, then as a messenger--grueling work, but his choice. And because this is an honest family with a will to solve problems in spite of its members, inflexibility, George's move ultimately wins his parents' respect and more self-determination for ail--including Mom, who prefers teaching to promotion. At the conclusion, George is off to the local college to study counseling--his own idea. A lot goes on in this transitional year: George has four girls in his life (the least interesting relationship is the one in which he loses his virginity; later, he quits his first job because his boss tries to seduce him); one of his best friends has a bisexual father, another almost drowns after an alcoholic binge. But Naylor weaves all into a thoughtful, well-balanced story, sure to hold readers' attention as much by realistic characters and circumstances as by the plot's more arresting turns.