Ninth-grader Jason is in love with his longtime friend Marceline but is frustrated by her refusal to make out.
Jason Herkimer and Marceline McAllister have been friends since Space Station Seventh Grade, though Marceline embarasses Jason with her trombone playing, goofy sunglasses and general refusal to conform. Thus, Jason is surprised to find himself in love with Marcelineand even more surprised when she rejects him. He indulges in sort of macho behavior until being part of the crowd is no longer satisfying. One day in the lunch line, a naive seventh grader, Rudy, starts choking. When Jason saves him using the Heimlich maneuver, Rudy grabs him in a grateful hug and won't let go. Jason is horrified at first because everyone in the cafeteria is watching, but understanding Rudy's terror, he gently hugs him back. Marceline is touched by Jason's kindness. They are reconciled, and their friendship/romance is ready to move to a new level. Spinelli's teenagers are fresh and funny, sometimes crude, sometimes poignant, and always very real. Jason's story will have readers rejoicing in recognition as he learns to accept himself and others. (12-up)