Caring for a stray animal braces up a lonely, overweight California teenager in this relentlessly wholesome story. Cassie is going through a bad patch: Her father has deserted the family, her mother never seems to let up on her; her best friend has drifted off; and her self-esteem is slipping away with her grades. Sitting on the back porch downing cookie sandwiches, she sees what looks like a large white dog at the edge of the yard. Naming him Toklata, after a town in Alaska, Cassie leaves food for him, and he soon becomes a rough but approachable companion. Cassie quickly finds herself nudged into uncharacteristic activities, taking walks in the woods, skipping snacks, nerving herself to ask for a job to pay for dog food, asking a teacher for help when she can't find Tokie's breed in her dog encyclopedia. Tokie turns out to be a wolf, raised by humans and escaped from a research station; to prevent him from being hunted down and shot, Cassie entices him into her house and holds off police for several hours. Though Wilbur adopts a lecturing tone about wolves as bad pets, she doesn't try to resolve every conflict, and allows readers to see for themselves how Cassie is changed by each challenge: When she lands a summer job at the research station, it's not a convenient piece of plotting but a well-earned opportunity.