A much-honored author succeeds brilliantly at a new task--telling it like it is at an inner-city magnet school, where black Talley's best friend is white Didi Adair, in love with a drug addict. Told from Talley's point of view, in a style graced with the inflections of Black English, the story has high enough interest to carry readers through any difficulties posed by a structure that makes heavy use of flashback. Didi has fallen for Ready, literally, in the school corridor, so dramatically that both are suspended. Talley, in the habit of meeting Didi at Roady's place, is often embarrassed to find them in bed, Ready more, or usually less, coherent. Here Talley meets David, white and totally charming, who seduces her in a lengthy, beautifully written scene. The reader realizes before Talley does that David is a pusher, not all bad but not to be trusted; his interest is physical, but he is Talley's first love, and when he casually betrays her it is heartbreaking. She's lucky: Victor, a black school leader, is waiting in the wings; and neither she nor Didi has been tempted by drags--caring, they have been involved only through loving the victims. There are likely to be arguments about the larger meaning of what these characters mean to each other; meanwhile, they're vivid and plausible. The tenseness of their world, where danger is everywhere--in their neighborhoods, at school where the new mix of students threatens violence, in Roady's painfully loud music (a rock concert provides another unforgettably described scene)--is precisely evoked. Hamilton demonstrates that a popular YA novel can also be a serious literary work of beauty, complexity and depth.