When Royce McNabb—the tall, handsome stranger—shows up in Mary Alice's class, all the girls swoon. He's a good-looking boy from another town, and the most popular girl immediately calls dibs on him, much to Mary Alice's annoyance.
But Royce McNabb isn't just eye candy. When Mary Alice invites him over to "tutor" her (it's all an excuse, of course), he shows some vulnerability when he tells her that they're both outsiders in this small town:
"I'm a stranger here myself," Royce said. "I'm from Mattoon. You're from Chicago. We're a couple of foreigners here." (6.91)
This makes Mary Alice feel like they have a connection beyond the superficial, and she likes him even more when he doesn't bat an eyelid at the fiasco with Maxine Patch running down naked from the attic. In fact, he tells her that he likes her grandmother and finds her interesting:
"How's things at your house?" Royce hazarded, though he still wasn't much for small talk.
"Don't rub it in," I said.
"No, I think your grandma's a real interesting person," he said, and our hands brushed. (7.80-82)
A cute boy who finds things that they have in common and accepts Mary Alice's family—quirks and all? How could she not fall for Royce McNabb?
He asks if he can write to her when he leaves for college, and Mary Alice agrees. Those must be some great letters, because at the end of the book, Mary Alice reveals that she and Royce McNabb get married…and they end up living happily ever after.