A new book from this fine novelist has always been welcome; as a sensitive, well-constructed story that should have wide appeal, this one is doubly so. Troy, 14, has two consuming interests: karate and drawing, at which he is so gifted that he is regularly employed by the local paper. But his goal of karate's black belt is delayed by his response to heckling from the ""dragoons"": three boys from his former karate school who are antagonized by Troy's many talents and successes. Troy fully subscribes to karate's principle that having power requires the self-control not to use it; he struggles to make practice match principle. Meanwhile, there are a lot of things on his mind: his relationship with his parents, whose scrupulous noninterference while Troy approaches manhood (and their dislike of karate, which they believe to be violent) seems painfully like indifference; and pretty Liesl, whose outrageous suggestion that he partner her in the ballet Coppelia proves more entrancing than he had believed possible. Possessed by a merry wit, a strong conscience, and enviable self-knowledge, Troy is a winning character. The vendetta with the dragoons and Troy's temporary alienation from his usual allies hold interest; a bridge disaster and a karate demo for children with multiple sclerosis combine to make a conclusion that is heartwarming, satisfying, and plausible.