A total surprise from the award-winning author of, most recently, The Winter Room (1989, Newbery Honor): a comic, accessible novel about a classic 15-year-old klutz. Slight, quiet, and much brighter than his dismal grades imply, Jacob has focused his talents on the art of being invisible and thus avoiding the jocks, of whom he is the quintessential victim. Despite his efforts, though, he's noticed by a teacher who drafts him to run the fog machine for a production of The Wizard of Oz. Hopelessly enamored of Maria, the popular, genuinely nice girl who plays the witch, Jacob panics at the chance of getting to know her, manages (like the Phantom of the Opera) to keep out of sight as usual, fouls up completely (and hilariously) in his not-so-simple theatrical task--and discovers, finally, that Maria likes him, too. Since this is a Paulsen book, there's another level here. Jacob is so self-involved that he's oblivious to the subtleties of others' motives and assumes that he's the lowest in every pecking order--which is only partly true, and true in that part because he himself perpetuates it. The book is deftly constructed, the brief chapters like the blush strokes of a master painter, with remarkably apt sketches of minor characters (Uncle Frank, "tough as nails," looks "like a spark plug"). A perceptive portrait of a kid on the verge of getting out of his self-set trap of imagining any change as a threat--even change for the better: a memorably funny yet touching farce.