Nearing is Henry Nearing, 18, a drop-out from his New Jersey suburban high school only a few months before graduation. And Grace is Grace Chance, the sexiest, druggiest, most seductive girl in school. Bored with her steady, Lance, Grace gives Henry a whirl--and changes his life. Henry hasn't had it easy, you see: he's motherless, with an alcoholic-ironist father who dashes around on a Honda 450 motorcycle (named, aptly, Thanatos) and a brother who's got fried brains from too many acid trips. So--for him to suddenly get a creature like Grace. . . Wow! And it isn't till the end of this first novel that Henry realizes that what he probably needed instead was the more available Myrna Ash--wise and musical and spurned Myrna, who finally gets tired of waiting. Aside from being almost fumigatedly druggy, this is high-school-iana of no great originality. But what is notable-and very fresh--is Sommer's approach: a novel about teenagers has to be self-deprecating, poised, and wry-and this one is all that. Funny-sad (Henry proposes that a Nearing family bumper sticker be printed: ""I FALL UPON THE THORNS OF LIFE! I BLEED!"") and more put-down than laid-back (""I was a typical teenager--I couldn't get myself psyched to do something unless I performed all sorts of idiotic charades""), Nearing's Grace becomes an engaging growing-up saga-a promising debut and a worthy counterpart to Jacob Epstein's somewhat similar Wild Oats (p. 342).