Fourth-grader Marcella lies a lot, a habit that has left her with few friends except retarded Benny Boo and old Judge Scott, a gold-hearted curmudgeon who foresees (correctly) her own death in two weeks. Like Harriet the Spy's, Marcella's problems stem from her parent's absorption in their own pursuits; on a typical evening, they're home just long enough to agree to leave Marcella while they both go back to work. Marcella secretly takes in a stray clog and names him Figment, in honor of her imaginative stories; for much of the book it's not clear whether the dog and/or his talking are real or imaginary. Finally, with Figment's help, Marcella gets her parents' attention and--in a sweetly ironic twist--tells a last lie in order to allow a sickly boy who's formed an attachment to Figment to keep him. The best feature of this rather disjointed first novel is the author's lively, engaging voice. Marcella is likable, generous at heart, and her new friendship with a classmate who's determined to give her a chance nicely reinforces the theme of locating one's own integrity in a complicated world. Focusing on her sprightly delivery, Hawkins leaves some disconcerting stray ends--the precisely predicted death seems like a pointless contrivance, as does the confusion about Figment's real nature. Still, an interesting debut.