Reader Alert: this book makes frequent use of the "n" word
Sixteen-year-old Malcolm Maguire is bright, good-looking and gay. And nobody knows. It's 1958, before it was okay to be gay, when "queer" was a dirty word. Hiding it was the only decent way to live. But when Lionel Lemmons, gay and black, enrolls at all-white Clinton High, Malcolm's feelings can no longer be denied. He falls for Lionel and the attraction is mutual.
Lionel knows how mean racial prejudice can be. He has lived with it all his life. But Malcolm soon finds he is a victim because he is too friendly with Lionel. And the bullying is nasty. Maybe this black/white love affair is a bad idea.
Both are talented artists. Malcolm is obsessed with winning first prize in the annual High School Art Competition. But Lionel wins, and Malcolm is devastated. He placed second. Then Lionel is disqualified on a technicality and Malcom wins. No matter how much he wanted first prize, his better self tells him this isn't right.
Lionel is viciously attacked by racists and forced to leave Clinton bitter and angry. It looks like the end of what could have been a beautiful love story. Or is it?