Peck navigates expertly through tricky waters in this story of a high school junior who must recover from his girlfriend's sudden death. Dory is never very real to readers; we only meet her in a romantic opening flashback and in a few remarks by and about her friends. But Matt, who has loved her, finds the funeral service difficult (shouldn't he have a more central role in the mourning?) and life without her painful. ""You haven't grieved,"" says his sympathetic father when Matt finally gets drunk in desperation; but the father can't bear to witness Matt's grief. Then Matt meets Margaret, who appears like an apparition in an old-fashioned long-skirted riding outfit. But Margaret is real. She's been riding side-saddle in the manner of her tradition-minded riding club, and fallen off her horse. To Matt, Margaret is rude, friendly, wise, arch, blunt, bright, proud, independent--a different side shows up every time he sees her. And though she first refuses to be friends--she doesn't want to hear all about Dory--there's enough encouragement between her rebuffs so that Matt does go after her. . . and claim her, in a disarmingly corny climax. Margaret may be romanticized, but cannily so, as her ""Jane Eyre"" entrance signals. She is a dashing character, with most of the best lines, and the lines are in character--with Margaret and the novel, for this is no maudlin chronicle. Early on, a few minutes with Dory's snobbish bereaved mother make an impression neither Matt nor readers forget, and a satiric contemporary-problems Classroom scene is wickedly on target without being simplistically typical. None of this makes Matt's grief less serious or real; on the contrary, it only makes the characters and their milieu more distinct, recognizable, and interesting.