Rottman's first novel pits a bitter teenager against some caring adults and levels his defenses with the prospect of a secure future. Sean, nine years after his parents' divorce, has never recovered from their separation, which left him in the care of his alcoholic, abusive mother. His father sends support payments but, according to Sean's first-person narration, takes no other interest in his son. When Sean, after misbehaving at school, is assigned to perform community service at a ranch, he is confronted by the outwardly gruff Dave Hassler, a veteran of WW II and all-around old-timer. Called upon to help deliver a foal, muck out stalls, and spread manure over gardens and fields left fallow for the winter, Sean finds himself enjoying the hard work, sense of accomplishment, and security of Dave's environment. When a former best friend, Rick, comes to settle an old score, Sean strikes back, definitively. Convenient encounters (a teacher, Mrs. Walker, shows up at the oddest times), information-laden incidents of eavesdropping, and over-extended parallels between a mare who rejects its foal and Sean's home life mar this debut. A homework assignment about heroes forms an awkward bracket around the main story, in which Sean's surly, snarling mother is a caricature cast among other more realistically drawn adults, and Dave's shining heroism is a transplant from another era entirely.