Robbie isn't really wretched; he just wants to be, as he feels that being nice is dull. Yet when his fifth-grade class votes on the most popular, most likely to succeed, and so on, Robbie is voted the ""nicest."" (""My own classmates thought I was dull!"") Still, he gets no satisfaction from his one deliberately wretched act--stealing a $67 check from his divorced, hard-pressed mother and turning it in at school to become the celebrated winner of a candy-selling contest. And he feels even worse about his non-deliberate wretchedness: forced by his mother to pal up with ""Adult Ally"" Biff Brunner, who is into sports whereas Robbie is a bookworm, Robbie spoils an overnight trip to a New York hockey game by crawling into a canoe at the Natural History Museum, which he loves, then falling asleep there while Biff, searching, misses the first period of the game. By then, though, Robbie has come to like his Adult Ally, and their differences are straightened out in the end when Biff rescues Robbie's cat from a tree and is unconvincingly moved by the emergency to recall his wife and son's death in a fire. Except for this tacky contrivance, the fast-reading story moves smoothly and Robbie's uncharacteristic misbehavior is enough to keep readers in tow.