Something quite remarkable happens in this novel, which involves, among other things, a boy making out with his best friend: a situation you'd say was tabu or treacherous in a juvenile is handled so openly and easily, is so of a piece with what's gone before, that it serves simply to strengthen an already convincing story of young adolescence. Davey's thirteen, alternately a burden and ""her baby"" to his mother who's taken him in after the death of his grandmother, weekly an enigma to his father and stepmother, always his dachshund Fred's big love. Fred welcomes him with a little puddle, supplies an excuse to get out of the apartment, also a reason, when they've started being friends, for Altschuler to come home with him after school and fool around. And then, following his mother's hysteria at finding the boys oddly alone, Fred is run over by a car. Davey, seeking a culprit, fastens on his unease about Altschuler and decides that they're to blame. His father is deficient but he has some sense; so, in a candid conversation (which touches on timidity with girls), does Altschuler: ""If you think it's dirty or something like that, I wouldn't do it again if I were you."" Much more devolves around Davey's relish of Fred and his quizzical observations of people and places. It's a very moral (and discerning) book about a boy, not a moralizing or exploitative fix on a problem.