Joy School (Ballantine Reader's Circle)
Thirteen-year-old Katie is new to her Missouri town, living alone with a stern, inaccessible father following her mother's death. Unable to fit in at school, she forges alliance where she can: with her housekeeper, with a pimply fellow misfit named Cynthia, and with the gorgeous Taylor, who gets her kicks out of shoplifting. Most frustrating of all is Katie's imperfect friendship with the proprietor of a local gas station, a handsome 23-year-old who shares her love of checkers but doesn't return her crush. With humor and an eye for telling detail, Berg conveys the way each unpromising element of Katie's life ultimately offers her more than she had anticipated.