A moving, emotionally-charged novel about the redemption of a sullen, rebellious, alienated 17-year-old boy, from the author of Home Before Dark and Sara Will. Rob Dickson's answer to extreme adolescent malaise has been drugs and alcohol. He's a disappointment, scholastically and socially, to his striving father, Davis; he's overprotected by his mother; and he can't compete with his brilliant 12-year-old sister. During the summer, Rob unwillingly accompanies Davis to the Dickson family farmstead in North Carolina. Davis' brother, Fairlee, who lives with their agoraphobic sister, Coralee, and their crotchety father has broken his hip. Rob is aghast when Davis, who has to return home, insists he stay on through the summer and part of the school year to help out. Although he agrees, everything about his countrified and caring relatives makes Rob feel resentful and claustrophobic. Then he falls in love with attractive, musical Ellery, whose parents are recently divorced; Ellery resents her mother, Ginny, coming to the country to ""find herself,"" disregarding her daughter's needs. Ellery and Rob's relationship is passionate but shaky; Rob is obsessed by his love, convinced it is the glue holding his life together. But it's really the down-home Dicksons, with their quirks and human qualities, who give Rob the security and emotional safety net he needs. After two crises--a drug bust and an accident involving his grandfather--Rob comes to terms with his own humanity, discovering an untapped depth of feeling obscured by denial and misplaced passion. The author has beautifully juxtaposed Rob's story with those of Ellery, Ginny, Davis, and Coralee (whose phobia Ginny helps cure), showing that self-growth takes place throughout one's life--always a timely message for teens.