Growth stocks are the beauties of the stock world, plain and simple. They're exciting, they have good stories, and they can make you a lot of money.

But for all their beauty, growth stocks are also the prima donnas of the market. They can be erratic, they don't always live up to their billing, and they tend to attract a shareholder base that's ready and willing to run at the first signs of slowdown. For those reasons, caution is certainly in order when you enter the world of growth investing.

Fortunately, The Motley Fool's CAPS service brings us the collective intelligence of a community of more than 140,000 investors and is a great resource for separating the Jessica Albas from the Jabba the Hutts. Each of the stocks competing for this week's top spot has a market cap of at least $100 million and grew its net profit per share by an average of 15% or more per year over the past three years. (You can run the screen for yourself.) So let's go ahead and meet our contestants.

True Religion
Fashionista True Religion Apparel (NASDAQ:TRLG) may be no Guess? -- yet. But the company certainly has its eye on the prize. While the company is best known for its popular hip-hugging jeans brand, it has been rabidly rolling out new products in other areas and putting up its shingle on bricks-and-mortar stores all over the country.

Recession is no friend to a company that sells high-priced clothing, but True Religion stormed into the downturn with an almost unstoppable momentum. Between 2005 and the 12 months ended in June, the company's revenue increased nearly 180% and its earnings per share jumped 136%.

Teva Pharmaceutical
Health care is a hot-button issue, but there are some companies that we should be able to count on smiling through any new regulations. One of them may very well be Teva Pharmaceutical (NASDAQ:TEVA), the powerhouse in the generic-drug industry both in the U.S. and the rest of the world.

At the end of last year, the company acquired Barr Pharmaceuticals, further increasing its already substantial muscle. Over the past three years, the company has boosted its operating income by an impressive 69%, and analysts are expecting to see a 22% year-over-year improvement in earnings per share when Teva reports its September-ended quarter.

Walter Energy
Thanks to spinoffs and business wind-downs over the past few years, Walter Energy (NYSE:WLT) is no longer a mishmash of random businesses. It's (almost) all about the coal, baby! Walter specializes in metallurgical coal, a high-quality coal that commands a premium price to steam and industrial coal and has been in high demand from growth-hungry China.

While the company is a slave to the price of and demand for the coal that it sells, it has the ability to control its cost of production and increase its output capacity. The company should also continue to benefit from increased focus now that it's dumped its struggling homebuilding and financing operations.
Though online travel booking may not be all that new at this point, (NASDAQ:PCLN) is finding ways to rack up serious growth. The company offers online booking of everything from airline tickets to full vacation packages in the U.S. and works with more than 70,000 hotels around the world to offer hotel reservations.

The company is firmly focused on maintaining its position within the U.S. market, while at the same time grabbing a larger share of the global hotel market. The strategy seems to be paying off for shareholders. Earnings per share are expected to finish the year 25% above their 2008 mark.
Whether you're a bricks-and-mortar giant like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) or Target (NYSE:TGT), or an online retailer like (NASDAQ:AMZN), you can't help but clench your teeth when consumers start squirreling away their money. But don't expect to see Amazon shaking in its boots anytime soon; the company continues to broaden its product offerings and steal market share from those bricks-and-mortar slowpokes.

Between 2005 and the 12 months ending in June, the company darn-near doubled its earnings per share.

The envelope please ...
CAPS community members have shared their opinions. Amazon (two stars), True Religion (two stars), and (one star) all get a quick vote off the island. While all have produced searing growth in recent years, CAPS members seem to think that the potential for future growth is well priced into their shares.

Coal seems to have plenty of fans on CAPS and Walter Energy ended up with a not-so-shabby four-star rating. But Walter couldn't quite push past this week's top growth stock, Teva Pharmaceutical, which scores five stars in CAPS.

Why so much Teva love? The company's growth is nothing to sneeze at, plus it's hard to overlook the appeal of generic drugs as the world's largest economy looks to reduce its health-care spending. But you've heard enough from me, let's take a look at what CAPS All-Star dhd1491 had to say in September:

Aging of developed nations' population will drive demand for pharmaceuticals in general for the remainder of our lives (anyone reading this). Generics, in particular, will benefit from the current effort to rein in escalating health costs. Teva, the largest generic-maker in the world, is right in the sweet spot for top line growth. At a forward P/E of less than 12, Teva is an incredible bargain for a company that should double sales every 4-5 years.

Now go vote!
Do you think that Teva has what it takes to be America's next top growth stock? Head over to CAPS and let the rest of the community know what you think.

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Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. You can check out the stocks he's keeping an eye on by visiting his CAPS portfolio, or you can connect with him on Twitter @KoppTheFool. The Fool's disclosure policy would surely win America's Next Top Disclosure Policy, but the guys in charge keep saying no one would watch such a competition.