Nina Malco's gradual emergence from the shadow of her successful older sister is skillfully developed, but the resolution of her friendship with tough, anti-social Paul Brodnik (an alleged pyromaniac) raises some disturbing questions. Nina and Paul share an interest in drawing, and together they paint murals on the wall of an abandoned house; through Paul and (mostly) the importance of having a secret Nina begins to come out of her shell--making friends at school, asserting herself with her sister and renewing good relations with her parents. In the end she is betrayed; Paul, in his own frustration over being forced to move out of town, beats her up and sets fire to the old house. The lesson Nina learns from all this is unclear. Her judgment of Paul is ambiguous, her anger remains undirected and the experience seems to toughen her without teaching very much. Nevertheless, Nina's dilemma is realistically portrayed, and the hot topic of violence is handled with sensitivity and control.