In alternating chapters, eighth-graders Mick Sullivan and Boot Quinn explain their long history of getting in each other's faces. After the latest altercation in a school hallway, a new principal tries a different strategy: the boys must play board games together during their lunch hour until they learn to get along. The unusual plan attracts the attention of classmates, particularly Tabitha, a manipulative beauty who feigns a romantic interest in both boys in order to fan the flames of their mutual hatred, while taking bets on the side as to who will win each showdown. The feud escalates to dares that lead each boy to destroy something he values (Mick, an avid reader, vandalizes the library; Boot shoplifts at a store owned by friends). The intriguing board-game premise runs out of steam, leaving a rather conventional problem novel about troubled boys whose fathers are abusive in different ways. Ages 8-12.