When Jesse Bennett returned home from school one afternoon to a crowd on her front lawn, she knew that the inevitable had finally happened - her mother, who for years had warned the family she would end up in the local mental institution, made good on her promise by attempting suicide. When her mother went away to seek treatment, Jesse constructed an elaborate lie to tell her typically cruel classmates: Her mother was on a world cruise, a prize she won from the back of a cereal box. But the hours Jesse spent at the local library researching the exotic locales of the round-the-world trip so that she could forge long, loving letters to herself from her mother were wasted. Soon, the truth was revealed, and Jesse went from being merely unpopular to being a total laughingstock.
Now that the Bennetts are back together and living in a new seaside town, Jesse is determined to fit in no matter what the cost, and her entry to the elite crowd at school is secured when she befriends Tracy and Amanda Grasby, pretty and popular girls from town. But her affection for Amanda grows beyond friendship - a secret she fiercely guards from her unstable parents, her Aunt Mabel, her slimy soon-to-be Uncle Frank, and especially Tracy, whose vicious enforcement of social hierarchies puts Jesse constantly on edge. In the end, when Jesse is called upon to stand up to her manic mother at home and to Tracy at school, Jesse must decide whether to preserve her fragile popularity or do what's right - even if it means her life as she knows it will crumble around her.
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