A striking and remarkably moving drama about the effects of a misfit upon people- in this case the pupils and faculty of a boys' prep school . Willard McGann is a boy ""who seemed to make failures of people... Like a deformed man who made healthy people all at once ashamed of their normality""--- accident-prone, unprepossessing, self- pitying, pathologically removed from the world. His only human contact is his roommate, Mo Slater, whose reluctant acceptance of the responsibility of Willard is the story's real backbone. Willard, at the beginning of the book, has had a complete, horrifying breakdown (""the Fit""). Its reasons and reactions are retrospectively described through a series of startling private stories and several shifts in time. None of these stories is irrelevant and each deals with some unique aspect of love, its characters revealing through Willard their ability or inability to deal with that central and terrible enigma-the cripple who desperately needs a love he cannot return. The successful boys shun him; the brutal play horrible jokes; one lonely professor discovers (through Willard) his own homosexuality; even the healthy feel guilty; and Willard, pitiable but irritating, invites disaster. But it is Mo who bears the brunt of Willard, fights for him, and is rewarded, briefly, and at last in an off moment betrays him.... This unique theme is handled with cool wit and remarkable skill and insight to make a truly first class first novel.