Once again, Hinton puts a bright, rebellious teen-ager, stubbornly pushing against society's expectations, into a powerful story lashed together with bands of irony. Travis is Everyteen: part insecure hell-raiser, part closet intellectual, prone to both sneers and tears. To the world, he presents a convincing image of a "bad-to-the-bone" street punk, but he's also a natural writer with a good mind, sharp eyes, and the urge to get it all down on paper. After trying to kill his hated stepfather, he leaves the city for his uncle's ranch, where his arrogant ways immediately earn him a bad reputation. There, he meets tough, whiplash-tongued riding-instructor Casey and Star Runner, the volcanically unstable horse she's training. The story zigzags between triumph and tragedy: Travis sells his YA novel (as he's failing English in school); learns that two of his city friends turned to crime and were murdered; and watches as the indomitable Casey, despite cracked ribs, puts Star Runner through a stunning public performance. By the end, Travis has gained new confidence and passed from infatuation with Casey to respect and affection. Hinton continues to grow more reflective in her books, but her great understanding, not of what teen-agers are but of what they can hope to be, is undiminished.?