THE BOY WHO LOST HIS FACE
A wry, uneven story in which a junior-high-schooler has his fling with the "in" crowd but ultimately finds more rewarding friends. David stands by uneasily while Roger and two other popular classmates knock down old Mrs. Bayfield, break her window, and steal her cane. When he himself is plagued by similar mishaps, he wonders whether he has been cursed--especially after learning that Mrs. Bayfield is reputed to be a witch who steals faces. Sachar gives David more than his share of grief: a constant victim of japes and jeers, he hangs around with outcasts Larry and Mo (Maureen); having nerved himself to ask out friendly Tori, he stands in front of her and loses his pants. Then, desperate to retrieve the cane and end the curse, he challenges Roger; battered but unbowed, he gets the cane, marches it back to Mrs. Bayfield, and learns that she's Tori's aunt and also a well-known artist who makes life masks (thus the witch rumor). Like There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom (1987), this features plenty of wildly tunny moments and deftly depicted social interaction; but once again Sachar keeps underestimating readers, halting the action to explain points he wants to make. Meanwhile, the final scenes, including a bibliotherapeutic epilogue set 150 years hence, are contrived and awkwardly handled.