THE WHITE BUS by Ken Alder (St. Martin's Press: $16.95; 246 pp.).
An idealistic 15-year-old white youth named Ira Allen, whose home in the hills of San Francisco has a view, whose father is a bank officer and who summers with his family in Europe, convinces his parents that he should attend Martin Luther King High School. And you know where that is: It's in the flatlands, looks like a prison and has a student population consisting mostly of blacks. But that's what bright young Ira wants.
Full of social and philosophical idealism, he takes that White Bus every day and by the end of the school year, he's fallen in love, discovered his courage and started growing up. Aside from wanting to change his skin cover, Ira Allen seems similar to teen-agers everywhere who want to break away from home--testing themselves in the process--and this seems like a flatter-than-usual coming-of-age book. While some of Ira's internal musings are wry and touching, no one ever seems to push out from the pages into believable form.