Mourning his elder brother Tom, who recently committed suicide, Artie Rugg sees the case of Gilbert--a pugnacious new classmate who has been moved repeatedly from one foster home to another, and who seems to be the target of bullying by another boy, James--as parallel to Tom's. Looking toward his own hoped-for future, Artie sets out to defend Gilbert, telling his story as a lawyer's brief; inevitably, the brief concerns Tom as much as it does Gilbert. As Artie investigates Gilbert's troubles, he realizes that he's working on the wrong case: it's not Gilbert vs. James but Gilbert vs. the World. Gilbert, in fact, is a confirmed bully and beyond Artie's efforts to help him. Meanwhile, Attic explores his feelings for Tom: he loved and admired his brother; but Tom--abused and then abandoned by his mother at three, adopted by the Ruggs at four, chronically at odds with his stern new dad (whose first wife left him because he was so uncommunicative)--had always been difficult, angry at the world. In light of his honest appraisal of Gilbert's problems--and with the help of his sympathetic new stepmother--Attic and his dad begin to reach an understanding of their own complex anger, to let it go in a reconciliation that includes forgiving Tom. A fast-paced yet thoughtful story, its several strands neatly woven, made easily accessible by its many very brief chapters.