Rene, an obsessive-compulsive high school student hell-bent on becoming a superhero, smells his hands and wears a Batman cape when he’s nervous, which is six to eight hours per day, depending on whether it’s a weekend or weekday. On a weekday, he witnesses his English teacher, Mr. Head, smash his head into the blackboard.
Rene is convinced that he is responsible—for this and all other tragedies. If he picks up a face-down coin, moves a muscle during a time of thirteen (i.e. 7:42 is bad luck because 7+4+2=13), or washes himself in the wrong order, Mr. Head will die a gruesome death, someone in a state other than New Jersey will get blown up in a bus, and/or Rene’s explosive father will return to the family.
Rene’s new and only friend, Gio, tutors him in the art of playing it cool, but it’s not as easy as Gio makes it sound, for Rene must court his crush, Ariel (better looking than the mermaid), escape a shoulder-biting bully, and convince the school psychologist that he’s perfectly normal despite his inability to separate the fantasy of scary scenes in scary movies from his more frightening reality.
Can Rene ever be safe—he doesn’t like to talk when not surrounded by security details like locks or walls or people he trusts—when his obsessive, magical thoughts inevitably bring danger? Where can he turn when the most horrifying place is in his head?