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. Life Partners Holdings may be off from its highs, but it is up over 350% over the past three years while the rest of the market tanked.

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 over 115,000 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 20% or more per year over the past three years (you can also run the screen for yourself). So let's go ahead and meet our contestants.

Express Scripts
The pharmacy benefit management space is a highly competitive one. But it may not matter that Express Scripts (NASDAQ:ESRX) has to go head-to-head with CVS and MedcoHealth -- the company is one of the big dogs in the industry, and it's an industry that's taking on increased importance as health-care costs continue to rise. Since 2003, Express Scripts has managed to nearly quadruple earnings per share and analysts expect that earnings will grow nearly 20% in 2009, even amid the economic downturn.

Apple
What can I say about Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) that hasn't already been said? The Mac-seller burst back onto the scene back in 2001 with the category-killing iPod and has been a steamroller ever since. Its iPhone has put it in competition with established cell phone sellers like Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Nokia, but so far it the iPhone appears to have that Apple magic working for it. While the recession may take a bit of the shine off Apple in the near term, Jobs and his crew have turned this company (back) into a force to be reckoned with.

Transocean
When it comes to helping oil companies reach oil deep under water, Transocean (NYSE:RIG) is the industry gorilla. Acquisitions -- including the massive GlobalSantaFe purchase -- along with an increased interest in offshore oil, have helped Transocean grow. Currently, a tough global economy and lower oil prices are making some rig contracts look like less of a sure thing. But with a customer base that includes giants like ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and BP, Transocean seems well positioned to capitalize on an eventual turnaround.

American Apparel
Quality basic cotton clothing may not seem all that impressive, but it's meant big bucks for American Apparel (AMEX:APP). The company burst on the scene with its soft cotton tees and wacky management and cooked up nearly $550 million in sales in 2008, a 41% jump from the prior year. At the end of 2008 it already had 260 retail stores in 19 countries to compliment its wholesale business, and the company hopes that this is only the beginning.

DirecTV Group
Cable companies are not the monopolies they once were, and DirecTV (NYSE:DTV) can be thanked for providing competition to wake up some of the more slothful cable providers. Over the years DirecTV has managed to show healthy top-line growth by increasing subscribers and average revenue per user, but on the profit side the 2006 decision to begin leasing set-top boxes and capitalizing the cost was the biggest driver. The benefit from the accounting change has caught up through DirecTV's depreciation expense, so now the company will have to rely on business growth for increased profits.

The envelope please ...
The voting is in and the CAPS community members have shared their opinions. Right off the bat, American Apparel is getting voted off the island. Though the stock does have some supporters on CAPS, many members are concerned about the valuation and whether the company's clothes could be a fad. The mediocre three-star ratings for Express Scripts and DirecTV mean that those two are the next to be voted off the island.

Apple's cachet and growth momentum have helped it achieve four-star status, but it wasn't quite enough to bump Transocean from the top spot. Transocean has been rated by over 5,200 CAPS members, 5,121 of whom have given it a thumbs-up. Back in September, DemonDoug, one of CAPS' top members, joined the Transocean bulls and said: "Ahh, Transocean. How long have I waited for you to come down to more reasonable valuation levels? A year at least. Best ocean based drilling company in the world. Oil baby, oil."

Now go vote!
Do you think that Transocean 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.

Related Foolishness:

Nokia is a Motley Fool Inside Value selection. Apple and MedcoHealth Solutions are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy would surely win America's Next Top Disclosure Policy.