The novel's protagonist, Chad Sobran, is falsely accused by his homophobic brother of trying to kill himself and finds himself hospitalized on a locked psychiatric unit for 72 hours' observation and then threatened with long-term commitment and guardianship. The author clearly captures the essence of the hospitalized person's perspective of involuntary hospitalization; Chad says, "How the hell did I end up in this place? But the most important question is, how the hell do I get myself out?" Eventually released, but not knowing whether he will face commitment at a future court hearing, he finds himself emotionally and intimately involved with a 17-year-old he met during his hospital stay. The two are then confronted with deceit, murder, and the death of almost every significant person in their lives. The reader wonders how Chad does not find himself legitimately back in the hospital where he started.