The book is about a fatherless fourteen-year-old boy who develops an unusual relationship with \"The man without a face\" who helps him to prepare for his entrance exams to boarding school. The main characters are Chuck Norstadt and Justin McLeod.
Chuck wants to leave his home and go to St. Matthew\'s, a military school where his father was. He doesn\'t know much about his father. Gloria, one of Chuck\'s sisters, only tells him what a jerk his father was. Chuck hasn\'t a friend to talk to. Gloria always messes him up and puts him down.
Chuck wants to pass the entrance exams, but he needs someone who helps him to learn.
Justin McLeod is a mysterious man with a scarred face. He has nicknames like \"The Grouch\" or \"The man without a face\". Justin McLeod was a teacher, but he got suspended, because he had a car accident when he was drunken. But the decisive factor was that a boy died in the burning car. Half of his face was burned in the accident. Since then he lives by himself in an old house on the mainland side of a little peninsula.
The story starts with Chuck\'s vacations. This summer he has to learn, but there isn\'t anybody who could help him. One day his sister Meg says, she heard that \"The Grouch\" once was a teacher and maybe he would coach him. The rumours about McLeod\'s carnivorous dog and that he writes pornography under a pseudonym depress him, but Chuck knows where he has to go, to McLeod.
After a turbulent meeting McLeod says that he will coach Chuck, but only on condition that Chuck has to do it McLeod\'s way and that means the hard way. The first days are very hard, because Chuck has to write long compositions, translate Latin texts and read poems. Another reason which makes it hard to learn is McLeod\'s scarred face.
Chuck tries to keep his learning with \" The man without a face\" a secret, because his mother wouldn\'t allow it. Therefore he asks McLeod if he can study at his house. From that moment on the relationship between Chuck and McLeod starts to grow.
But one morning, after McLeod told Chuck about the accident, Chuck wants to tell McLeod he should make no reproaches for himself, but Chuck doesn\'t find the right words. Without Chuck\'s volition, his hand reaches towards McLeod\'s arm and grasps it. But McLeod jerks his hand off and walks out. Chuck feels let down by McLeod. He thought McLeod is a special person, but it seems that he is like any other. Chuck goes to the pier and meets his friends. He smokes marijuana with them and tells them everything about McLeod\'s accident. After that he feels lousy. He is still sore at McLeod, but he has ratted on him. Chuck goes to McLeod, but Chuck doesn\'t tell him that he told his friends about the accident and he hides it for a long time. One day McLeod takes Chuck for a tour. They arrive at a place with a wonderful view. They lay in the sun and relax, but Chuck couldn\'t. He thinks about what he has done to McLeod. Then McLeod grasps Chuck\'s arm and says he should spill whatever it is. And he calls him son. Maybe it was the \"son\" or the touch of his arm what moved Chuck to tell McLeod about ratting on him. McLeod isn\'t angry about it, on the contrary, he understands him. After that Chuck spends more time with McLeod, in his presence he feels safe and his feelings for him grow. But he feels more than friendship.
One day everything is over. Chuck and Justin are on friendly terms now. They spend another day on the mountain and Chuck touches Justin again and a sort of an electric feeling goes through his body. After a horrible incident with Gloria\'s boyfriend he finds some papers which tell him everything about his father. He was a heavy drinker and died of chronic alcoholism. On the way to Justin many pictures slide in and out of his mind. Justin sleeps when Chuck comes into his bedroom. He wakes Justin up and tells him everything what happened. Justin puts his arms around him, holds him. All the feelings for Justin, the times on the mountain and the touches come together. Chuck starts to cry and he can\'t stop. Justin carries him to the bed, lies down next to him and holds him.
The next morning Chuck is worried about what happened with him last night. He remembers that he reached out to touch Justin and the feelings when he felt his skin. Justin says that there is nothing about it to worry him. But Chuck doesn\'t believe him. His mother\'s new friend and husband Barry is a friend of Justin and he comes to take Chuck home. Chuck wants to speak with Justin, but he only says :\"Goodbye\" to him.
Chuck passes the exams and is very busy. He doesn\'t think about Justin. But one night he has a dream and he has to see Justin to tell him how much he loves him. On the next day he leaves school. When Chuck arrives at the house, Justin isn\'t there. He goes from room to room full of hope to find Justin. When he takes down his favourite book to read, a piece of paper falls out of it. A letter from Justin. He spends some days in Justin\'s house, but one morning Barry comes. He tells Chuck that Justin died, but that he understood Chuck\'s behaviour that last morning. Also he tells Chuck that Justin left the house with everything in it to him.
After breakfast Barry brings Chuck back to school.
I like this book, because Isabelle Holland describes Chuck\'s feelings and thoughts very realistic. You can put yourself in the character of Chuck or Justin. The whole story seems to be taken out from life.