Casey Gordon is lean and limber, a 17-year-old senior at Westfield High School. Casey is a bright, energetic, caring girl but she seems to need to be hurt. She injures herself a little too much in track competitions and she always falls in love with real losers. She doesn't really understand the conflicts inside of her and the feelings of unworthiness that set her up to get involved with Paul VanHorn.
Paul is nineteen, and he graduated-under a cloud of scandal-from her high school the year before. Instead of going to college, he does construction work. A mysterious, attractive boy just over six feet and powerfully built, he is well-read, intelligent, and even romantic. He charms Casey and he pays attention to her deepest needs. But he comes from a terrible home-his father is an abusive alcoholic and his mother a submissive, suffering victim.
Before long, Casey falls in love with Paul, even though he doesn't fit in with her friends, and he slowly draws her away from the world she has known. The first time Paul hits Casey, their romance becomes a bad dream. By that time, Casey is involved and she becomes torn between her fear of being hurt and her intense feeling that, for the first time ever, she matters to somebody.
As Casey falls deeper and deeper into her dark romance, she gets hurt more and more seriously. Ultimately she finds herself in a hospital bed recovering from injuries inflicted by Paul, and her friends and coach start to get through to her and help her recognize that she matters to them. She realizes that she needs help and that help is there. She begins to see herself for what she really is-an intelligent, beautiful girl deserving of love-and she comes out of the darkness and into the light.