It's July 1969 and while the attention of everyone else in her Long Island neighborhood is on the impending moonwalk, Tamara Ann Simpson's focus is the black hole created by the sudden departure of her best friend, Kebsie, a foster child who lived across the street. She directs her considerable anger at Douglas McGinty, the new foster kid, whom she ironically dubs "Muscle Man." In her self-absorbed grief, Tammy fails to see that the whoppers Douglas tells-he's training for the 1972 Olympics, he's sung on Broadway-are his way of coping with a major loss of his own. "Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year old," Tammy's narration begins. "The problem is…. only I can see him for what he really is." Indeed, among the well-realized cast of scruffy neighborhood pals, no one joins Tammy's campaign to unmask Muscle Man as a phony. But author Marino, in her debut, pulls off the neat trick of having created a sullen, feisty protagonist who is worthy of redemption.
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