Though of far more complexity than the author's A Taste of Blackberries (KR, 1973), Tough Chauncey gives us the same sort of honest, empathic picture of a troubled kid. Small for thirteen but tougher than anyone except maybe his rival Black Jack Levitt, Chauncey finds himself hitting out irrationally (and usually physically) at everyone who comes near. Though he longs to live with his thrice-divorced mother, who tears him up by neither taking him in nor letting him go, he must stay instead with a suspicious grandfather who shoots stray cats and beats, bothers and imprisons Chauncey so that he will grow up straight. It's evident that the old man does care for the boy in his own way but just as obvious that his way makes Chauncey's life with him unendurable; thus it's a relief that even after Chauncey suffers a serious leg injury and runs away on crutches with the one kitten he has saved from the shotgun, and even after his grandfather pleads tearfully on the radio for his return, the author doesn't stage a reconciliation. Instead Chauncey makes friends with Jack, who reads to him about Johnny Cash (Chauncey himself can't read), tries to discourage his running away (""Everybody has a lot of stuff, man. Don't you know that?"") and finally steers him to a foster home agency. Time after time through the book we see the boy messing up his chances for peace and friendship and the author passing up her chances for easy resolutions, so that in the end when Chauncey seems headed for a less self-destructive kind of toughness we're still with him, cheering him on.