Jesse, 13, finds growing up in a trailer park in Ida, Texas, rough. She is without friends her own age, and nurses a secret grief: Years ago, when her baby brother got sick, her mother told Jesse to pray for his recovery, but she didn't. Jesse's outlook changes when quirky, red-haired Roxanne, 30, moves in next door. She's had time to learn some of life's hard lessons and soon becomes Jesse's best friend, passing along her wisdom and her capacity for love to the younger girl. The winner of the 12th annual Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel displays shining moments. Jesse, Roxanne, Mr. Arthur, and Jesse's sister, Doris Ray, are well-developed, original characters, but Jesse's peers at school are more one-dimensional. While Jesse's first-person narration generates both humor and pathos, some of her actions ring false, too obviously serving only to further the plot. Nevertheless, a fine first effort, eccentric and funny.