In his first novel for younger readers, McNair demonstrates a sensitive eye for the dynamics of family and friendship in a thoughtful, moving story. Lisa, 13, has formed a special relationship with Cody--her five-year-old mentally retarded brother--just as her parents find themselves unable to cope with his situation. Fulfilled and happy, Lisa has hitherto neglected friendships with peers and is therefore unprepared when her parents with the cooperation of an understanding doctor--begin to create new, structured activities for Cody and to ease Lisa into a less responsible role. Freeling adrift in the vacuum left by Cody's being more frequently absent from her, Lisa forms a relationship with Robert, a new boy at school who has a unique way of dealing with stress: he adopts a new persona for each situation--Monty Hall to face off a bully, Elvis Presley to meet Lisa's mother, etc. Soon Lisa and Robert are sharing this game's delights--until Lisa gets disturbing evidence that it's more a way of life than a game to Robert. Her resulting withdrawal from the friendship precipitates a series of crises that force her--and the people around her to confront truths about themselves. Told by Lisa in the present tense, in a humorously original style, this is unevenly paced and has a conclusion that is a touch too clinically correct; but the characterization is on the mark, the issues illuminated with loving care. An exceptional debut.