Nick Reber lives with his military father and grandfather in a house above the Blister Military Academy, in Virginia, where his father is headmaster. In the eventful year after Nick's mother leaves his father, Nick's best friend, skateboarder and maverick Caleb Purr, becomes the object of new female cadet Jessie Southgate's adoration; Nick's grandfather marries Lt. Meadow, Nick's English teacher; and Nick decides to leave Blister to attend a more artistic high school in New York City. Unlike his father, Nick has little interest in going to West Point. He would like to be a cartoonist when he grows up. But when Caleb nearly gets expelled for stealing -- he was framed by the scorned Jessie -- and Nick's grandfather moves away, Nick decides to remain at Blister to take care of his lonely father and sad best friend. There will be plenty of time to study art in a nonmilitary college, he realizes. James (The Shuteyes, 1993, etc.), who also writes as M.E. Kerr (see Deliver Us From Evie, below), is not at her best in this conventional novel. The Frankenlouse gimmick is a comic strip that Nick draws and through which he works out some of his problems, but the strip isn't clever -- it's inane. Maybe Nick should go to West Point after all. For those who know Kerr at her best, her using a pseudonym is understandable.