A Mississippi town in 1964 gets riled when tempers flare at the segregated public pool. As much as Gloriana June Hemphill, or Glory as everyone knows her, wants to turn 12, there are times when Glory wishes she could turn back the clock a year. Jesslyn, her sister and former confidante, no longer has the time of day for her now that she'll be entering high school. Then there's her best friend, Frankie. Things have always been so easy with Frankie, and now suddenly they aren't.
When Theo gets off a bus in Destiny, Florida, he's left behind the only life he's ever known. Now he's got to live with Uncle Chester, a Vietnam War vet and a loner who wants nothing to do with this longlost nephew. Thank goodness for Miss Sister Grandersole's Boarding House and Dance School. The piano that sits in Miss Sister's dance hall calls to Theo. He can't wait to play those ivory keys. When Anabel arrives, things get even more enticing.
Azalea is not happy about being dropped off to care for Grandmother Clark. Paris Junction is nothing like her Texas hometown. And now she's been thrown together with troubled Willis DeLoach, gossipy Melinda Bowman, and Billy Wong, a Chinese American boy who has his own troubles. Billy's parents own the Lucky Foods grocery store, where days are long and folks aren't always friendly.