In a new, improved entry in the ""Kids from Kennedy Middle School"" series, Cooper takes a formulaic idea--the ugly duckling makeover--and gives it plenty of zip. Before she lost weight and got a great new haircut, Gretchen was accustomed to unflattering names. Now, without her old looks as camouflage, others are suddenly aware of her in ways she finds hard to grasp. Formerly mean and (realistically) still slightly snotty Veronica actually appears to be jealous; others start looking to Gretchen for leadership; most surprisingly, an older boy is asking her out. Gretchen wobbles through this muddled new terrain with the gentleness readers have come to expect of her; as the story unfolds, she grows into her beauty and exhibits new maturity about school, family, and friends, without ever leaving her ""nice"" old self behind. The other children are as refreshingly complex as she is (and Veronica is really trying!) in this fine continuing saga.