A vehement, bluntly cast portrayal of an upper-crust community called Oak Bluff and a timid, drab family that reflects its values and dynamics. Shy, stuttering Mary Abbot, 17, has always been slighted in favor of her beautiful blond older sister Roxanne; but the confident Roxanne has taken Mary's part and, in rejecting the family's favoritism, also rejected the snobbishness, decadence, and injustice represented by Oak Bluff. The events, centering on frivolous teenage society (some characters are in their twenties, but no more mature), take place the summer Roxanne is going with John Drysdale, the playboy son of rich and powerful neighbors who have illegally appropriated some of the Abbots' land. Mary has had a crush on John for years, and the novel climaxes when she goes to a big Oak Bluff party, gets high, and goes off to bed with John. Next morning, alone in ""the family wilderness,"" a melodramatic morass of vines and quickslime and mosquitos and ""the coils at the center of her own mind,"" Mary comes to some realizations about her family, Oak Bluff, and the world at large. Other characters whose roles relate to these conclusions include Mary's vicious, racist, unpopular friend Gloria; a proud black family relatively new to Oak Bluff; and a visiting African prince who comments from an unruffled height on American faults and foibles. It's all strident and heavy-handed, but at least Guy's own emotional intensity gives it some life.