Nick leads his junior class at his drab private high school and is big on the soccer team and the school newspaper. He has a loving girlfriend, Beth, a top student at her private high school, who seems to have dropped from the sky just for him. But he has no friends at his own school, admits he's stand-offish and arrogant, and can't enjoy himself for worrying about grades and Harvard acceptance. His lawyer father, a mere NYU grad who seems to have led a more easygoing youth himself, is forever pushing Nick, never satisfied with his grades or achievements. Then Nick's father dies of a heart attack, just when Nick finds himself caught up in a political struggle over who should run the school paper. Vicious Kurt, a smart but nasty character whose gang Nick would like to belong to, wants the editor's job and, when they are elected co-editors, sets out to persuade or persecute Nick into resigning. In the end Nick stands up to Kurt and in the process wins friends and standing for himself. But what makes Nick sympathetic and believable is not his struggle with Kurt but his petty and inconsistent struggles with himself. He behaves badly at his father's funeral, ducking out from a combination of conflicting interests and inability to face the ordeal. He plays up to Kurt after vowing not to, then is rebuffed anyway. He berates and pities himself at such times and others, dwelling on his problems and his wrong moves. Only making out and eventually making love with Beth is always good--a little too one-dimensionally good, but readers probably won't mind, for Nick earns his modest victory at school and his growth is imperfect enough to ring true.