Bronwyn tries to fit in with the popular crowd of drag-racers at her local high school and juggles a romance with one of the older drag-racers as well as a more high-class, gentleman of a boy. Bronwyn Lewis is a 16 year old teen who is tougher on the outside than she actually is on the inside. Unlike the rest of her family, Bronwyn feels like she's meant for something greater in life, but she doesn't know what. It is the 1960s and Bronwyn and her family move to the dusty, middle-of-nowhere town of Ojala, California. At first, her mother and father are happy to adjust to small town, rural life. Her family used to live on the east coast, in Plainfield, New Jersey, and she's not used to the unbearable sun and constant dust. She's also intimidated by the “Barbie and Ken” dolls – the teenagers that are bursting with confidence as they drive around in their spectacular cars. Bronwyn's family had moved to Ojala so that her father could fulfill his dream of opening his own restaurant. As the years pass, the restaurant business doesn't satisfy her father, who is a dreamer, and he falls into a depression, becoming an alcoholic and even trying to kill himself. Bronwyn is miserable and starts to get part-time work in order to save up money for her “escape fund” - the fund she will use to get out of Ojala.
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One day, she overhears a co-worker talk about an old T-bird they have collecting dust in their garage. Bronwyn offers to buy the car, even though it is typically regarded as a guy's car. Bronwyn is counseled against buying a car because there have been lots of incidents of drunken youth racing their souped-up cars late at night and killing themselves. Bronwyn promises she only wants the car for her own independence, not to do foolish things like racing. When Bronwyn finally gets the car, she thinks this is her chance to finally fit into the teenage crowd in Ojala. She names her car Silver.
After getting her car, she inadvertently becomes friends with Lanie when she gives the girl a ride home. Lanie is beautiful and perfect and everything Bronwyn thought she'd always wanted to be. Lanie is friends with the other popular girls in school who are all wealthy and by association, Bronwyn is allowed to join the "cool crowd". It is revealed, however, that Lanie is actually very poor and keeps her situation very secret.
Bronwyn starts hanging around The Pit which is where some of the cool teenagers bring their cars and race each other. Bronwyn starts developing a crush on a certain older “delinquent” named J. C. who convinces her she should race and even lets her use his car, Deuce. She enters her first race and wins.
A few days later, Bronwyn is helping her parents out at the restaurant when a family comes in to dine. Bronwyn's father asks one of the older boys to check his gun or else he's not allowed to enter the restaurant. To their surprise, the boy chooses to wait outside. Bronwyn thinks he's odd, and learns that the family are the Hardings, a wealthy family. Bronwyn feels sorry for the boy, standing outside in the sun and offers to bring him some food and drink but he refuses, politely. Later on, the boy, named Will, gives Bronwyn a book of poems and seems to like her because he asks her to come horse-back riding with him.
Bronwyn officially meets Will's mother on their sprawling estate and she impresses his mother with her extensive skill at the piano. Piano and music in general was a skill Bronwyn associates with her old life in New Jersey and she rarely has the opportunity to play the piano in Ojala. Bronwyn is intimidated by Will's life as she thinks of him as a “richie” and she is ashamed of her own “low-class” looks and attitude. But Will dismisses all that “nonsense” – he likes Bronwyn for who she is. On the drive back to town, Will suddenly pulls out his gun and shoots something in the bushes, startling Bronwyn. Apparently, he was shooting a snake but his speed with the gun unnerves Bronwyn.
Meanwhile, Bronwyn is challenged by a chauvinistic guy and, despite the advice of her friends, decides to race him. She wins the race but the guy nearly dies. Bronwyn is so shaken by the incident, she vows to never race again.
A few days later, Bronwyn is invited up to Will's estate again and she slowly learns more about him. Will makes it obvious that he likes her and considers her his “girl” however Bronwyn isn't sure she likes him to the same degree. She is charmed by him but there's something restless in her that doesn't want to be anyone's “girl”. Bronwyn also hates that Will always carries a gun around but Will insists he doesn't mean to scare her and he tries to teach Bronwyn how to shoot. Bronwyn ends up inviting Will to be her date for the prom.
On the day of the prom, Will comes to pick her up. Bronwyn introduces Will to her father, who is drunk. Later on, Brownyn introduces Will to her friends. She feels like Will is from another world – a world more refined than her and her friends, but Will proves surprisingly easy-going. As Bronwyn gets to know Will and his life, she starts to feel a bit sorry for him because his mother is so overbearing and tries to dictate his life for him.
After the prom, Will doesn't contact Bronwyn for a while. She starts hanging out with the crowd at The Pit again and she encounters J. C. He influences her to race again. This time, Bronwyn loses on purpose to the girl she was racing against. J. C. is impressed that she was willing to lose to let the other girl win. That day, he tries to make moves on Bronwyn, but Bronwyn panics and rejects him. Bronwyn is confused about her feelings towards J. C and her feelings towards Will. On the one hand, she feels the thrill and excitement of imminent danger when she's with J. C., on the other hand, she enjoys a quieter and more slow-moving relationship with Will.
Later on, Will tells Bronwyn that he's going to go to college somewhere far away to become an officer at his mother's request. He and Bronwyn enjoy a romantic dinner together on the night before he leaves. Will professes he loves Bronwyn and finally kisses Bronwyn. The kiss changes everything as Bronwyn now finally thinks she might love Will. Will promises he will write her often.
After Will leaves a fire rages through Ojala. The firemen successfully douse the fire and the city holds a party to celebrate. At the party, Bronwyn is again intoxicated by her attraction towards J. C. and they finally sleep together. After sleeping together, Bronwyn feels immensely guilty that she's betrayed Will. Will sends her letters but she can't write back because she always feels horrible when she tries to compose a letter. Bronwyn starts dating J. C. officially, though she feels like their relationship is purely physical.
One day, Will returns home to visit and sees Bronwyn with J. C.. Bronwyn doesn't need to explain, Will gets the message. Later that day, Bronwyn hears that Will had an accident with his gun and died. Bronwyn thinks it's all because of her and she is filled with even more guilt. Will's death shocks her back to reality and she determines to become accomplished in music so she can get out of Ojala and do something with her life. The story ends with Bronwyn going entering a music academy and remembering, fondly, that Will had always encouraged her to pursue her passion for music.
Best part of story, including ending:
I didn't like how Will suddenly dies near the end of the story and the story ends so quickly after that. I didn't feel like Bronwyn really achieved resolution about the nature of Will's death and how it was connected to her own failure to achieve her own potential in life. The whole story just didn't feel resolved with such an ending and just made me sad and restless for a better ending.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Bronwyn plays the piano at Mrs. Harding's house. I think Bronwyn confused herself by trying to fit in with the crowd at Ojala (the cool crowd that raced cars and drank the night away) when she wasn't truly that person. I felt like those teenagers were very listless and lacking in a mission or goal in life so they wasted their time doing dangerous things like drag-racing so that they could "feel" again. Bronwyn is different from the other teens because she does have more productive passions she can pursue in life. When she played the piano and let herself be carried away by the music, she was in her element. It was only her self-doubt that was convincing her that she wasn't "worthy" of pursuing such a "high-class" passion when her family and most of Ojala are working class.
Opinion about the main character:
I didn't like that Bronwyn toyed with both Will and J. C., though I understand that the two different "dalliances" were just a manifestation of the two lives Bronwyn was leading. I still didn't like that Bronwyn was too cowardly to face Will and tell him the truth about what happened between her and J. C. or at least tell him that she can't be his girlfriend anymore. It was very hurtful when Will found out Bronwyn was "cheating" on him in the way that he did. Though the reason behind Will's death remains ambiguous, I think the gun accident was definitely linked to Will feeling miserable and betrayed about seeing Bronwyn.