It wasn't smart to set fire to Ethical Culture. If I'd been thinking in those days I never would have done it. Well, I was thinking. I was thinking too much.

Thelma Beldwin stopped merely existing the day she set fire to the Ethical Culture building. the pressures of living with a family she did not respect or understand suddenly became unbearable. Somehow there were matches in her hand. And then ...


Thelma began living the day she was sent to North Woods School by a juvenile court judge. With the help of her psychiatrist she begins to understand the roots of her unhappiness. With the help of one of her teachers she discovers the solace of meditation. Then the near suicide of her roommate finally leads her to a conclusion that will change the res of her life.


Barbara Dana has written a story about a girl's isolation with compassion, perception, and humor. Harper & Row is proud to publish this remarkable novel.

"…narrative conveys with immediacy the frenetic feelings of an adolescent unable to relate at all to her family."    - Booklist


"Dana writes with scathing realism on the subject of teenage alienation…  sure to be a hit with teenagers. Parents should read it to."       - Publisher’s Weekly

"Both the pattern of her increasing stability and the pattern of a fragmented family are built with logic and sensitivity, in a book with sharp characterization and a trenchant style alleviated by moments of wry humor"   - Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books