Ryan Dean is two years younger than everyone else in his class; he’s a fourteen year old in eleventh grade. He starts his year in Opportunity Hall, a dorm for troubled boys. He’s scared of his room mate Chas at first, but then they bond (sort of) during the illicit midnight poker game where they have drinks, and penalties for losing. Ryan Dean is determined that this will be the year when he gets Annie Altman to become his girlfriend. However, Megan, Chas’s girlfriend, proves a distraction when she starts kissing him regularly. JP, one of Ryan Dean’s best friends, asks Annie out to the Halloween Dance. Ryan Dean gets pissed. Joey, his team mate and new friend, disapproves of what he’s got going on with Megan and tells him to break it off.
His first two days are spent getting sent to the doctor twice for injuries. He goes home with Annie on a weekend, and kisses her. More than once. Things start looking up. Ryan Dean and Joey become close friends. Joey tells Ryan Dean that Casey Walker, an absolutely horrible guy who regularly insults Joey for being gay, is gay himself and has a crush on Joey. In the days leading up to and during the Halloween Dance, Ryan Dean breaks it off with Megan, comes clean with Chas, and somewhat clears things up with JP, although he knows they can never be friends again. Joey tells Casey that he’s not interested. During the dance, Ryan Dean sees that Joey is pissed about something, and dances for him. That’s the last time he sees Joey alive. Two days later, they find Joey stripped naked, tied to a tree, and beaten to death in the woods near OT. Casey Palmer and Nick Matthews murdered him. Ryan Dean shuts down. In the days after Joey’s death, he slowly realises that love is the most important thing of all. And he discovers the power of words. And that not all of us are really brave. He grows up.
What went down
- Ryan Dean is a fourteen year old starting his eleventh grade at Pine Mountain Academy in Opportunity Hall, a dorm for “troubled boys” who’ve committed infractions. Ryan Dean is in for having hacked a teacher’s cell phone and using it to make untraceable, undetected free calls to his parents.
- He is rooming with Chas Becker, a scary huge rugby player, who Ryan Dean is convinced is going to beat him up someday. Their first day, when he thinks he’s going to, Chas invites him to a midnight poker game instead.
- He plays, gets drunk for the first time in his life, loses the game, and is made to pee in the girls toilet as a consequence. The OT Hall girls’ warden, Mrs. Singer, almost catches him, and shouts that she’s going to put a diarrhea spell on him. Ryan Dean gets diarrhea the next day. He is convinced Mrs. Singer is a witch.
- After rugby practice, as the boys are walking back to their hostels, Ryan Dean spies two football players, Casey & Nick (they also stuck RD’s head down a toilet on his first day at OT) trying to pick a fight with Joey, Ryan Dean’s team mate who is gay. Ryan Dean rushes in and tackles Casey before Joey can get a hit in. Casey punches him back, and its the start of Joey & Ryan Dean’s friendship.
- Ryan Dean and Annie (his best friend and eternal crush, but she’s older than him so how will things ever work?) go for a run together, and end up at the wishing circle, a spiral of stones they made with their friends Seanie and JP. If you walked from the outer rings to the center making a wish, the belief was that it would come true. Ryan Dean wishes that everyone (but especially Annie) stopped treating him like a little kid.
- The next day, Chas’s girlfriend Megan kisses him, and while part of Ryan Dean’s head is blissed out at the awesomeness of this unlikely attraction, another part is cowering in the corner imagining all the horrible things Chas could do if he finds out.
- Annie invites Ryan Dean to come home to her place on a weekend, and he agrees. Just then, JP announces that he asked Annie out for the Halloween Dance, and they’re going together. Ryan Dean gets super pissed, and gets into a major fight with JP during practice. He gets hit in the face, and requires stitches. The fight hasn’t blown over, though.
- Chas suspects something is up between Ryan Dean and Megan and is about to punch Ryan Dean, when Joey steps in and defends him. The truth, however, is that something is going on between them, but Ryan Dean can’t seem to stop something that feels so good.
- The next day, during practice, Seannie stomps (like, really. STOMPS.) on Ryan Dean’s balls, and he starts bleeding. He goes to the doctor and gets a band-aid for the cut.
- They go to their first game of the season, and win. On their way back to the bus, a group of boys attack Joey. Ryan Dean, Chas and Kevin (another team mate) fight back and catch the boys. Kevin is injured from the knife one of the boys had.
- Later, on the ride home, Joey tells Ryan Dean that one of the boys was his ex-boyfriend’s brother. When the family found out about the relationship, they put their son in a mental facility to ‘cure’ him, and the brother promised to come after Joey someday.
- That weekend, Ryan Dean and Annie travel to Seattle together. Annie’s parents are both doctors, and lightly tease Annie and Ryan Dean about each other. Ryan Dean is over the moon at the possibility that Annie might actually like-like him.
- The next day, Annie and Ryan Dean go for a run around Bainbridge Island (where Annie lives) and Ryan Dean kisses her in an abandoned building. She kisses him back.
- After they return from Bainbridge island, on their way back to Pine Academy, Ryan Dean knows he has to break it off with Megan once and for all.
- That night, Ryan Dean is woken up for another game of poker, but this time, Casey is playing too. Ryan Dean and Chas lose at the exact same time, and they’re punishment is that they have to go into town and get them all Halloween costumes before sun-up. Joey offers to take them, since they’re both drunk and can’t drive.
- On the way to the town, Chas catches hold of Ryan Dean and makes him tell him everything that’s been happening between him and Megan. They stop for gas, and when Ryan Dean & Joey get back to the car, Chas is missing. They start searching, but cant find him. They give up and drive on to town. Joey tells Ryan Dean that Casey was at the game because he’s got a crush on Joey. Casey Palmer was gay.
- On their way back after getting the costumes, they’re accosted by an old man looking to go home. Its only after they’re halfway to where he points them that they realise he’s senile and has no idea where he lives at all. Just when they’re about to turn around, the car gets stuck in mud and the old man starts screaming. Ryan Dean helps Joey get the car unstuck and they return the man to where they found him. The shop keeper tells them he lives right next door, and this is a common habit.
- On their way back to PM, they see Chas walking back in the same direction. They stop, and he gets in, but he doesn’t seem all that eager to kill Ryan Dean. He’s more desolate than anything else.
- The next day, during running practice, Ryan Dean confronts JP about asking Annie out inspite of knowing that he liked her. They’re about to get into a fight when Seannie breaks them apart and JP hits him by accident.
- Ryan Dean breaks it off with Megan. She cries, making him feel like a heel, but he knows its for the best.
- That evening, on his way to a run with Annie, Ryan Dean catches Mr Farrow (the boys’ warden) and Mrs. Singer making out. Mr. Farrow offers to transfer him out of OT in exchange for his silence, but Ryan Dean asks him not to do that, since he actually likes it at OT.
- On their run, Annie admits that she loves Ryan Dean. Our fourteen year old is over the moon.
- The boys win the rugby match the day before Halloween, but JP and Ryan Dean are still fighting, and Seannie shouts at them both for spoiling a perfectly good thing they had – their friendship.
- On Halloween, Mr. Farrow leaves Mrs. Singer in charge and goes out. The OT Hall boys aren’t allowed to the dance, but when Mrs. Singer basically tells them that she doesn’t care what they do as long as their quiet, the boys take it as permission to go to the dance.
- Ryan Dean sees Casey dogging Joey, and Joey turning around and telling him to back off, since he’s not interested.
- Ryan Dean spends half the dance apologising to everyone he hurt that year – Chas and Megan to start with. When he finds out that JP skipped the dance, he goes to his room to apologise. On his way, he sees Joey, and he appears pissed off. They talk, and Ryan Dean sings for him in an effort to cheer him up.
- Ryan apologises to JP, and he accepts his apology, but they both know that they can’t be friends again.
- Much later that night, when Ryan Dean returns to OT, he sees Casey walking around dazed in the halls, obviously smashed. There’s an odd feeling in the atmosphere, and its eerily quiet, and Ryan Dean resolves not to step out of his room.
- The next day, Joey isn’t at any of his classes, and no one seems to have seen him. When he’s missing for the entire day, the police start searching the grounds. Ryan Dean and Chas help too.
- Two days from the time he was last seen, Joey is found in the woods not far from OT, stripped naked, tied to a tree and beaten to death. Casey Palmer and Nick Matthews murdered him.
How did it end?
OT Hall is closed down, and the boys are moved into the normal dorms. Ryan Dean refuses to talk to anyone, except Annie, and only in whispers. Annie’s parents come to one of his games, and he talks to Annie’s mum after the game, and breaks down in her arms.
Ryan Dean does a lot of growing up in the days after, as he realises that not everything is about sex, like his English teachers loves to think, but its about love, and not having it.