Dillon Hemingway, a junior at Chief Joseph High School, competes in triathlons. He wants to someday qualify for the Ironman in Hawaii. His brother Preston committed suicide after he started taking drugs and lost his legs in a Harley accident. As a way to cope with this loss, Dillon writes letters to Preston. He also takes on a job as manager and trainer for Coach Sherman, coach of the girls' basketball team.
In addition to dealing with his brother's death, Dillon must cope with his internal conflict about Stacy Ryder versus Jennifer Lawless, his two crushes. He has known Stacy since childhood, as she was Preston's girlfriend. However, he now has feelings for Jen, the best female athlete at school and the star of the basketball team.
Jen is not without her own problems, though. While she is a tough, talented athlete and a National Merit Scholar finalist, she has a secret: she suffers from a childhood of sexual abuse. First, she suffered at the hands of her real father, and now she suffers at the hands of her abusive stepfather, T.B.
Eventually, we learn that Dillon also keeps a complicated secret: not only was he there when Preston committed suicide, but he also finds out that Stacy had Preston's baby, whom her parents adopted. He feels like a fool for being in love with her, especially since Preston killed himself the day after she told him she was pregnant.
As the novel progresses, Dillon and Jen become closer because of their affiliation on the basketball team. They go on a date, even though Jen is scared and apprehensive to be alone with a male.
Soon after, Jen admits to Dillon that her stepfather abuses her. Because of his own issues and his concerns about Jen, Dillon starts seeing Dr. Newcomb, a counselor.
Meanwhile, Jen learns that her mother is pregnant. Immediately, she worries about the fate of the new baby. To help Jen, Dillon confides in Coach Sherman. Together, they get her to see Dr. Newcomb. While the counseling helps, Dillon decides more immediate action needs to take place, so he hatches a plan for revenge. In order to catch T.B., Dillon plants a camera in Jen's bedroom.
Ultimately, with Jen's permission, Dillon takes the tape of the incriminating evidence to T.B.'s place of work and blackmails him to leave Jen's family forever. Jen decides to take the rest of the tapes to the police, to stop T.B. from ever hurting anyone else. Thankfully, the police find him in Florida and arrest him.
Best part of story, including ending:
I really liked the themes that Crutcher offers about ways to cope through difficult times.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene is when Stacy traps Dillon in a pair of Chinese handcuffs. Crutcher uses the handcuffs as a symbol of learning to let go by releasing instead of pulling harder. The characters are able to apply this philosophy to overcoming their personal problems.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked Jen's tenacity in dealing with her abuse and her willingness to let Dillon help her resolve her problems.