No stranger to excess, pulp-pounder King returns to Nodd's Ridge, the small-town Maine setting of Pearl (1988) and Caretakers (1983), for a heavily hip and hormonal coming-of-age saga in which two high-school basketball stars forge an alliance on and off the court, a liaison that brings both glory and tragedy. Sam Styles is the mild-mannered, scrupulously honest Wunderkind of Greenspark High's championship team, and is also the son of Reuben, whose relationship with Pearl was the focus of King's previous novel. ``Samgod'' becomes the chief protector of the ``Mutant,'' Deanie Gauthier, whose intensity on the court matches his own, but whose bizarre appearance and lack of scruples off the court have made her an outcast. Drawn to her until he's giving her rides and food, and helping her team to improve by arranging preschool practices with his, Sam is also drawn into deanie's private hell, learning about her sex-for-drugs arrangement with the local dealer, and about the physical abuse (also sexual) that she suffers at home. A rocky secret romance begins, fueled by lust and loud, loud music, and they convert Deanie's abandoned-mill hideaway into a private practice-court/love-nest, where Sam finds her when her mother's boyfriend smashes her face in a jealous rage. The Mutant returns to the hoops wearing a plastic face mask, fiercer and more fearsome than ever, and she and Sam easily steer their teams to state titles, but their future is suddenly darkened when Deanie's mother is beaten to death by the abuser, who then turns his rage on them. Relentlessly au courant in music and lingo, numbingly detailed in depicting the smells and surges of adolescence, this has a few fancy moves but in general fails to follow through for the score.