The tape-recorded report of hyperactive Richie Fassinger (he's given drugs to keep him cool), 14 in a class of 12-year-olds (though ""not dumb""), who has overheard his mother's complaints about being saddled with such a defective. Because of his uncontrolled behavior, no mothers will allow Richie to play in their houses, and even at home he's often ""grounded"" to the porch. Then Richie meets Norman, a spastic kid of 13, who's in the care of super Patty, about 21, while his parents are in Japan; the three of them have a terrific summer, with Richie musing that ""somehow Norman makes me want to be good, to be a good friend,"" and Patty most appreciative of how Richie is drawing Norman out. But one night Patty is called away; there's a storm, which always sets Richie off; Norman laughs at his fears; and Richie blows it--causing Norman so much trouble and terror that neither he nor Patty will speak to Richie again. Patty had once advised Richie not to ""let Norman win,"" as he'd catch on if you did (besides, he has to get used to losing most of the time); in keeping with that sensible advice is Green's discouraging but realistic ending--allowing, for hope, only a flash forward to the fall when Norman has the grit to attend public school for the first time and a still dejected Richie is perhaps settling down. Like all of Green's fiction, this lacks texture, but the incidents are well chosen and the portrait of Richie, a kid whose greatest fear is of himself, is an understanding and surprisingly honest one.