1963 is a year of great change for 11-year-old Ellie Dingman. The assassination of JFK inspires Ellie's flamboyant mother to leave her family, move to New York City, and pursue a career in acting. With her mother in the Big Apple and her father working long hours, Ellie inherits the tasks of maintaining the household and caring for her younger brother and sister. School offers Ellie no respite; Ellie and her best friend, Holly, are designated “weirdos” and “misfits” by their sixth grade classmates. Under the leadership of the school's four most popular and malicious girls, Ellie and Holly are alternately abused and shunned by their peers.
Unfortunately, the cruelty Ellie and Holly encounter at school is just an extension of their hometown's many prejudices. The residents of Spectacular, New York regard Ellie and Holly's cul-de-sac neighborhood, as the official address of local outcasts. Holly's mother is unmarried; hints of lesbianism surround the ladies who live down the street; the Levin family is Jewish; the Lauchaire family is French; and now, Mrs. Dingman's absence is every bit as conspicuous as her presence once was. Though Ellie is fond of her neighbors, routine vandalism suggests the townspeople have a very different opinion. Mailboxes are sabotaged, trees are assaulted with spray-paint, and Holly's beloved cat is poisoned. Ellie yearns for normalcy and stability, hoping to find a place for herself at home, at school, and in Spectacular.
In the spring, Ellie travels to New York City for a surprise visit with her mother. Secretly, Ellie hopes this journey will reunite the Dingmans—but instead, Ellie finds that her mother has both physically and emotionally distanced herself from the family. Realizing that she no longer fits into her mother's life, Ellie re-conceptualizes the meaning of “family” and “normal.” Come June, Mr. and Mrs. Dingman file for a divorce and Mrs. Dingman heads to Hollywood. Although their marriage has dissolved, Ellie grows closer to her father, brother, and sister.
This report prepared by tamirante