Vi Marta, 12, accepts her lot in life and when questioned always lies about the bruises she suffers from her father, Joe Marta's, harsh hands, and by younger brother Joey, who's actually encouraged by her father to be mean to Vi. Vi's mother Carol is indifferent and never defends Vi from her father or her brother. Carol is also being abused by both her husband and seven-year-old son as well. Carol desperately wants the love of her husband, and would do anythhing to obtain his love, including going along with her husband's brutality. The only consistency in Vi's life, is from her grandmother, her mother's mother, and her sixteen-year-old uncle, her mother's brother. Vi is invited to join the cross-country running team where she is showing great potential. Then, her mother shatters her life by telling her that they're moving to NYC to live with a grandmother that she had been told is dead, her father's mother. No matter how much Mary, her grandmother from Pennsylvania, tries to talk some sense into Carol to leave Vi in her care, she would never go against Joe, and Joe said no, and that is that. So, Vi is off to NYC where she's forced to live in a house of deceit, lies, and now sexual abuse, forced to go out with a twenty-year-old and is even thrust into an inner-city school where she's bullied and attacked. She learns despicable things about her father and family, and even meets her Uncle John, without knowing who he is at first, and the secret of how Grandpa Alex died seems to be the big family mystery. Her only stability in life is Handsome, her grandmother's dog, who becomes her best buddy and loyal protector, saving her repeatedly from her grandmother's "handy" husband and the school crime syndicate's efforts to abduct her. She meets Mrs. Burch, who is under cover at the school Vi enrolls in, as the guidance counselor. She meets Vince by chance, who is also a detective. It is in the midst of Vi's horrific time in NYC, with the help of Handsome, the kindness of Mrs. Burch, Vince, and Vince's parents, who are all such a contrast to her own family, that she learns to stand up for herself and becomes determined to fight for the life she deserves.