Hower's hard-cover debut - a gritty, fast-moving story about a group of hardened reform-school girls and an idealistic, sensitive counselor who struggles to change a brutal system.
Stevens, 35, divorced, has made his way from the Peace Corps up the ladder of the prison system. Now in charge of the third floor of the Fairbanks School for Girls, he finally has the power to implement his ideas, but a disruptive new girl, spiky 16-year-old Katrina, a veteran of countless institutions, threatens the harmony of his program. How Stevens and Katrina form a close bond and together fight the hostile system - personified by second-floor administrator Ben Palerno; hulking Nurse Evans; and "husband and wife" Peaches and Ronnie - takes up the body of the novel. Prison riots, lesbian romances, runaways, and fights add drama to a familiar story that Hower manages to keep fresh-through exciting narrative and carefully drawn characters. His portrait of a reform school's social organization saves Wolf Tickets from too many descents into Grade-B melodrama, as does the heartwarming story of Katrina's evolution from sullen outcast to confident leader.
It has the subject matter and pious flavor of a made-for-TV movie, but crisply told.