This was a good story, with only a few minor issues that kept me from calling it great. On the surface, the story was entertaining and it moved along briskly. It certainly fell distinctly into the nebulous arena of YA, offering both the appeal of the genre and the tendency not to pull punches on a few touchy issues. Race is a card being played, but it isn't the central issue.
As for teaching it, I think it would do well in upper high school classes, mostly as a way to introduce the issue of domestic violence, and possibly lead to other books that touch on the theme. It might even be appropriate for a psychology class, though the focus would be a little different.
My main criticims of this book are with the persistence of some elements from Crutcher's other work that I've read. If I hadn't already read "Deadline", I wouldn't have had a problem. As it is, it almost seems like he recycled his story with a non-white protagonist and focused on domestic violence. The protagonist even has many of the same personality traits in both stories, and the girlfriends have similar backstories and tough personas. The other criticism is that there are too many wife beaters in this little town. I don't know the statistics, so maybe I'm way off, but it doesn't seem realistic for nearly every male in a town to have the same hang-up, at least all the non-outcasts. The racism, I get, I've seen it. It's pervasive and unfortunate. However, having every bad guy in the story a dumb jock with a penchant for beating up wives and girlfriends seems a little over the top. Even some of the teachers, though they didn't explicitly have domestic issues, had the thuggish attitude that would lead you to suspect it.