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Rocket Science Summary

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Life is not easy for teenager Hal Hefner of suburban Plainsboro, New Jersey. His parents have abruptly split; his older brother, Earl, is a budding obsessive-compulsive who pushes him around; and he has an unpredictable stutter that makes high school an exercise in embarrassment, self-effacement and terrible lunches. Given that his active mind and quick wit tend to be obscured by his problematic voice, Hal is not an obvious candidate for his school's high-powered debate team. So it comes as a complete, though not unwelcome, surprise when the team's star member, the hyper-articulate Ginny Ryerson, approaches Hal on the school bus one afternoon. The Plainsboro debaters need a replacement for Ginny's former partner, who dropped out of school following a calamitous performance at the New Jersey State High School Policy Debate Championships the previous spring. Ginny, who can compress an eight minute argument into ten seconds without breaking a sweat, dropping a word, or botching a barb, proceeds to present her case for Hal's potential as a public speaker. She has seen Hal, she has seen his promise. Hal is more than just shocked, or even dazed; he is smitten. As the notion of debating takes hold in Hal's mind, so, too, do thoughts of the attractive and dazzlingly confident Ginny. Gambling that his voice will cooperate with the rest of him, Hal joins the Plainsboro High debate team as Ginny's partner. Trundling back and forth to her house with his ever-growing pile of research, Hal starts to see new possibilities in his life. The road ahead holds many twists, turns and bumps for Hal; despite his best efforts, people and circumstances prove more unpredictable than any stutter. But Hal rises to the occasion, and in doing so he scores a victory that has nothing to do with winning a debate--and everything to do with finding his voice.