Back in California, Ginny felt like she belonged - she was almost popular. Now suddenly she's negotiating the social waters of a new environment and a new school. To her surprise, that's where she finds someone who is even more alien than herself: Smitty Tibbs, a handsome and strangely compelling boy who has managed to become an honor student without ever speaking, making eye contact, or letting anyone touch him. As it turns out, Ginny's next-door neighbor, Caulder, happens to be the closest thing to a friend that Smitty has, and he introduces them. Together, Ginny and Caulder determine to break through Smitty's barriers and bring him into the world of people.
As they probe into their friend's past, intending to do the right thing but unsure of what to do, they hit a raw nerve. Smitty is admitted to a mental health clinic, where a caring therapist helps him deal with the truth about the "accident" that left him silent at the age of two. As Ginny and Caudler learn, Smitty was abused - nearly fatally - by his older brother, who managed to convince him that he would die if he spoke to anyone. The process of learning to trust again is a long and difficult one, but it is as revelatory to Ginny as it is to Smitty himself.
Readers, too, will find themselves plumbing the depths of this complex novel, which discusses the difficult subject of sibling abuse with sensitivity and maturity. The dedication of two ordinary teens joining together to rescue their "alien" friend is a refreshing change from the norm, and their surprising mental and emotional journey is one which young adults will find fascinating and memorable.