High school senior David Gilbert has barely spoken to newcomer Howie Jamison, an oddball from Florida, yet when Howie lands in the hospital with leukemia Mrs. Jamison phones and asks David, as his only friend here on Long Island, to visit him. Soon indecision and reluctant duty on David's part give way to deep concern for Howie. He visits him often in the hospital, takes him along to a party when he's out in remission, and generally alienates his old friends and girlfriend with his ""goody two shoes"" devotion to the ""Howie cause."" Furthering the split is David's recent decision, made before Howie but strengthened by the experience, to become a doctor instead of a professional soccer player. His friends, who are also his soccer teammates, feel rejected; his girlfriend Rena leaves him, for her own mildly interesting reasons; and his father, a real-estate salesman less well off than the other parents, worries about the money involved in a medical education. In the end, though, Rena returns with new commitment (this relationship, though it serves its purpose, is never very vivid), and there is a degree of reconciliation with the teammates, who fall in with Rena's campaign to give blood for Howie. As for Howie, his difficult mother finally succeeds in yanking him back to Florida--but he is clearly fading, and David's letters are not answered. Without probing deeply or pushing too hard, Strasser convincingly links David's new interest in medicine with his rather unusual commitment to Howie. The story is far closer to the YA norm than Strasser's Angel Dust Blues (1979)--it's as if, after that fresh first novel, Strasser surveyed the field and decided to conform--but it has a spark of particularity that sets it apart from many more maudlin casebook scenarios.