Dreams and love, however fragile, mean everything when you're fighting the Beast.

Wallingford Academy, an exclusive prep school for rich white kids, a handful of rich black kids, and a few scholarship students like Spoon, trying to get into Ivy League schools when they graduate. It's just a few hours and an entire lifetime from the mean streets of Harlem where Spoon grew up on 145th Street. He's been gone for five months, and now he's back for Christmas break. But things have changed in those five months, and Spoon feels like he's on the outside looking in, a pane of glass separating him from his parents and his homeboys. Even his girl, his love, Gabi, seems to be pushing him away, overwhelmed by the turns her life has taken since they were together the last time, before he left in August. Her mother is in the hospital with cancer, her grandfather, unable to live alone, has had to move into the tiny, shabby apartment, and her little brother has started hanging out with gangbangers. Their phone’s been disconnected for months, and Gabi’s been alone, with only the Beast for company.

"Just skin surfing, Spoon, just skin surfing," she whispers to Spoon when he slips into her moonlit bedroom and sees the needle. "I have to do something to get away..."

Spoon knows he still loves her, that hasn't changed. But he knows that loving her is different now. He can't go back to Wallingford and love her from a distance. It has to be in the here and now, the immediate. She is his, his girl-poet, his love, his life, and there is nothing he won't do to keep her from the Beast who has sneaked into their lives when he wasn't looking. The world he's come back to isn't the one he left, and Spoon himself is different as well. Will he be able to figure out how to fight the Beast, or will the street claim another victim?