Wendy is mean, no question about that, but she's fun too, and for five years Jessica has been enclosed in the circle of their friendship. So readers can appreciate her desperation when Wendy fastens her attention on their fifth-grade (black) classmate Barbara and shuts less out; and they'll recognize, with less, that her mother--in trying to patch up the friendship--is managing her again. But still they may grow impatient with less' campaign to rekindle Wendy's interest--a series of mysterious notes to herself from "A.S.F." (A Secret Friend)--and with her readiness to humiliate herself time and again. It takes a few well-chosen words from older, independent sister Helen ("a friend should also support you and help you when you need help") and from the now-disenchanted Barbara ("We can't handle ourselves with a person like Wendy") to reconcile Jess to her loss and help her discover a new, real friend. Salutary, perhaps, for the child similarly in thrall to a magnetic, exploitative personality--but Jess is too much of a doormat, and too little a person in her own right, to elicit the requisite sympathy from others.