Tom is a high-school loner, just trying to survive among the psychotic "normal" students. He's still trying to adjust to the death of his cop father six years earlier, too, and when he discovers a stash of old books that belonged to his dad (including Catcher), he starts to investigate his death. There's a secret code, lots of research, and all kinds of connections to the present. Along the way, there's also lots of casual sex, drinking, and drug use. High school sure wasn't like this when I was a kid. Or maybe it was and I just missed out.
I did wonder about a few things. Though the book's supposedly set a few years ago, you'd think it was set much earlier. Nobody has a cell phone. When Tom's in the hospital, he has to go out into the hallway and use a pay phone to make a call, irritating all the other patients who are waiting to use it. Tom and Sam do their research in a library, using the microfilm machine. Retro in the extreme. Music plays a big part in the book (Frank Portman's a musician, the leader of The Mr. T Experience), but there's hardly a mention of anything after the '80s. Instead we get allusions to Trout Mask Replica, the Kinks, and plenty of others from that era.
But who cares? It's fun reading all the way, there's a mystery to solve, and there's even some closing advice for teenage boys (get in a band). Check it out.