I found the writing wooden and the characters flat. The big family surprise at the end isn't much of a shocker to anyone who reads YA fiction, although perhaps it was more scandalous in '79 when this book came out.
This book depressed me, and not because of all the depressing plot points. No, this book depressed me because the hero is going nowhere in life and isn't going to do a thing about it but continue to act up in class and possibly knock some girl up before he gets out of high school. I didn't have patience for boys like that when I was a young girl, and I don't have patience for narrators like that now. Also, I did not like the way Jamie (the girlfriend character) came across. "Oh, I'm so tough yet vulnerable! So world-wise yet so naive! So feminist and yet stupid enough to keep dating the hero, who is a loser! And I say 'curious' instead of 'horny'! Aren't I just so modern-woman and yet still a simple country girl?" Gag.
A more interesting book, from a character development standpoint, might have resulted from starting the story AFTER Mason left for college, not before. I was left with no confidence that the hero was going to make it on his own, but there was no poignancy attached to his uncertain future.