In a promising first novel, unpopular, super-bright Nicki spends her seventh-grade year seeking a new image as more than just a brain. Overjoyed to become friends with Rhonda, Nicki admires her sophistication, not quite understanding that the Cs she gets in their shared advanced courses are well-deserved. Oblivious to Rhonda's lightly veiled animosity (more explicitly voiced by Rhonda's side-kick, Randy), she helps with her homework, seeks her advice, and even tricks Rhonda's pushy Mom into believing that her own fine marks are Rhonda's. Meanwhile, Nicki has started corresponding with Andrew, son of her mother's old friend. When she tries out for a school play, her chances are scotched when his letters, full of puppy love, are broadcast in the middle of tryouts. Humiliated, Nicki retreats into non-achievement. But when Rhonda falsely accuses her of plagiarism, she realizes that it is Rhonda who has been filching her papers and betraying her all along. Nicki, refusing to betray in return, takes the unfair rap and is ready to move on to another, real friendship where each will understand the other's pain. Starting like just another friends-at-school story, this develops into a penetrating look at the difficult task of learning to trust and to give. The reader may guess the culprit before Nicki does, but both girls are drawn with a convincing array of attractions and faults. The friendship with Andrew is established rather easily in a single evening, but that is a small flaw in an enjoyable, well-wrought novel.