After the death of her father, sixteen-year-old Iris Wight is uprooted from her hometown in Maine and sent to live on a farm with her hard-bitten aunt Sue and her hulking, monosyllabic cousin, Book. Immediately, Iris, a vegetarian and animal lover, clashes with Aunt Sue, who mistreats her livestock, fritters away Iris' small inheritance, and thinks nothing of striking Iris for the smallest offense. Grief-stricken and alone, Iris finds solace in her aunt’s herd of goats. But when Iris sets two of the young goats free to save them from slaughter, the tensions between her and Aunt Sue come to a frightening and violent head.
Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one - she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, gets good grades, dates a cute soccer player, and helps out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who hangs out with druggies and leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when Sadie and Carla are caught up in a drug deal - wrong place, wrong time - it falls to Sadie to clean up the mess, confessing to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. She’s supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist. Instead, she’s sentenced to six months in juvie.
It’s the fall of 1966, and 12-year-old Dewey Turner is determined to start the school year right. No more being the butt of every joke. He’ll be cool — a Lone Wolf like his older brother, Wayne. But an accident with shoe polish dashes these hopes — and earns Dewey his worst nickname yet. He finds an unlikely friend in Darla Turkel, the only person at Sand Mountain High who is more of an outcast than he is.