Eleven-year-old, motherless Alice decides she needs a gorgeous role model who does everything right; and when placed in homely Mrs. Plotkins's class she is greatly disappointed until she discovers it is what people are inside that counts.
The summer before she enters the seventh grade becomes the summer of Alice's first boyfriend, and she discovers that love is about the most mixed-up thing that can possibly happen to you, especially since she has no mother to go to for advice.
While trying to survive seventh grade, Alice discovers that turning thirteen will make her the Woman of the House at home, so she starts a campaign to get more appreciated for taking care of her father and older brother.
While planning a wedding as part of an assignment for her eighth-grade health class, Alice thinks about her father's and older brother's love lives and learns that you can't prepare for all of life's decisions.
During the summer between her junior and senior years of high school, Maryland teenager Alice McKinley volunteers at a local soup kitchen, tries to do "something wild" without getting arrested, and wonders if her trip to Chicago to visit boyfriend Patrick will result in a sleepover.
Along with the usual concerns of senior year in high school, Alice faces some very difficult situations, including vandalism by a group of Neo-Nazis and a friend's confession that a teacher has been taking advantage of her.
Maryland teenager Alice McKinley spends her last semester of high school performing in the school play, working on the student paper, worrying about being away from her boyfriend, who will be studying in Spain, and anticipating her future in college.
As Alice McKinley begins a new phase as a student at the University of Maryland, College Park, she experiences many changes, both expected and surprising, that lead her into a future her seventh-grade self could only have imagined.