An unusual look at a good kid trying to stay good in the face of the pressures of early adolescence. Ethan and his best friend, Julius, have always taken pride in their mediocrity. Unlike his perfect older brother, Peter, Julius does the least he can get away with, and gets as much in return. When a beautiful student teacher joins his class, Ethan wants to impress her by excelling, which alienates Julius and makes Lizzie, the despised class poet, fall in love with him. To discourage her, Ethan reluctantly participates in a cruel prank. Mills (Dinah Forever, 1995, etc.) keeps the story firmly grounded in realistic concerns and events: Ethan gives it his best but doesn't win the science fair; Lizzie's poetry is pretty good but always childlike; Peter is popular for a good reason--he's genuinely nice and works hard. Best of all, despite Julius's defensive attempts to play the loser, he is a friend to hold on to. Ethan's thoughtful struggle to grow up while hanging on to his basic decency makes for an involving, often poignant, always satisfying story.