Wardly Spinks is eaglebait!"" the bullies jeer, and klutzy, overweight Wardy, as he always has, lashes ineffectually back. Friendless, unmotivated, harassed, he has only his basement physics lab and sympathetic Grandma Lou for comfort; existence is cheerless at home and school until he begins talking with new classmate Meg and responding to charismatic science teacher Heinrich Guterman. As Wardy's fascination with physics flourishes, Guterman's interest becomes ominously intense; he begins dating Wardy's mother and hinting about a prestigious European summer science institute. Pressured to choose between his studies and the people in his life, Wardy wavers--but in the end opts for Meg and Grandma Lou. Amateurish writing (""Thunderheads of doubt clouded his mind"") and unnatural-sounding dialogue mar this earnest but gawky first novel. Guterman's intense, scary presence suggests him as a villain, but aside from the discovery that he was once accused of plagiarism his motives remain ill-defined. A painful, humorless ugly-duckling story.