Funny, close-to-the-source episodes from Jason's first year in junior high school, where his word for classroom is no longer hot, boring, or interesting, but safe--safe from the ninth graders who run the school and will pee on your sneaker if you're in their way at the urinal. Jason and his friend Richie have some ridiculous racial misconceptions; after gym showers, they conclude that blacks and Italians get pubic hair earlier than "we" (WASPs) do--and that classmate McGinnis, then, must be from northern Italy. Jason also has a macho attitude toward girls, and early on he becomes class hero for a night by chasing a "monster" in the woods--mostly to protect and impress the fluffy cheerleader he pines over through the book. But the girl he ends up relating to is Marceline McAllister, the skinny trombone player he insults with a moose call early on, then battles fiercely for second-to-last place among the track team's mile runners. When the moose call gets him suspended, Jason's stepfather takes the matter lightly, explaining to his mother that they will have a "new monster" to deal with as "the thirteen-year-old does not change from a worm to a butterfly. It changes from a butterfly to a worm." If so, though, Jason is a worm who turns, imperceptibly--learning from experiences with his Korean-American friend (Jason emphasizes the Korean origin, Peter the American present), an encounter in a black neighborhood, the death of Pete's little brother, and, especially, the staunch example of Marceline McAllister. This is not, then, as frivolous as it seems at first; but it is consistently zippy and bright--and all the better for not waving its colors prematurely.