Emerald Washington thinks she has control of life. After all, she’s eleven, has long been caring for her mentally confused grandma and her four-year-old sister, Bettina, and they are getting along. One thing she hasn’t figured out is what to do with Uncle Ern, who uses her for his sex almost every night. That has been happening since her older sister ran off.
But then the electricity goes off, the only food in the cupboard is noodles, and she is so disgusted by Uncle Ern that she hides from him. And instead of disappearing, he uses Bettina.
Emerald knows that living at home isn’t working. So they pack their pillow cases and head out to find their older sister.
Bettina is discovered by social services and removed to a foster home. Still Emerald has hope. If she can find their older sister, things will be better.
Emerald’s search takes her from her familiar Pasadena to the inner city of Los Angeles. Rat-infested garbage piles up between buildings and whores walk the streets. She discovers the world of sex trafficking and under-age prostitution and its hold on her family.
Ultimately, her own courage, coupled with the strength of a few other caring, brave people, allow her to find unexpected resolution.