Fifteen years after his mother left town in disgrace, Malachi “Mally” Jacobs returns to Croy, Oklahoma in the late 1960s to take care of his ailing grandfather. Outcast and abandoned, he knows nothing about his father, or why he and his mother left Croy shorty after he was born.
Mally is taunted by the older boys and shunned by his classmates. But after a few false starts, he forms an unlikely alliance with Randy, a football player with dysfunctional parents, and Joanie, an intellectually curious and courageous girl who cannot face the truth about her own family.
The three kids find a haven in each other that takes the place of their fractured families. But it’s a refuge that has its costs. Randy’s best friend, Red, harbors a jealousy that goes deeper than the loss of a football buddy, leading to ever more violent bullying of Mally. Randy’s abrasive run-ins with Joanie blossom into romance, even as he uncovers the betrayals that underlie her seemingly perfect family, and Joanie’s efforts to bring Mally out of his shell seem on a collision course with her hopes for a steady boyfriend.
Ultimately, Joanie, Mally, and Randy must face the truth about themselves and each other, and take comfort in the bonds of true friendship.