Summary, no spoilers.
This story takes place primarily in the summer of 1973, and the location is Moline, Illinois. Our 15 year old protagonist Jamie lives with her uncle Raymond. Jamie was raised in Bakersfield by her grandparents, but when the grandmother got ill, Jamie was taken in by Raymond. We know that Jamie's mother was named Suzette and that she basically abandoned Jamie when Jamie was a baby, although she did appear briefly in her life after that. Jamie has fantasized about Suzette and hopes that someday her mother will come to reclaim her. She especially was hoping this would happen when the grandmother fell ill. But Suzette did not appear.
At the beginning of this summer in 1973, Jamie's wild child cousin Fawn, aged 16, comes to live with her and Raymond. We know that Fawn was sent to live in Moline as some sort of punishment for some misbehavior at home, but Fawn's version of events comes into dispute later on in the story. What we do know is that Fawn is beautiful, manipulative, and determined to have a good time.
Plain Jamie becomes enamored with Fawn and her lifestyle, and lets Fawn influence her in both the way she looks and the way she behaves. The problem of course is that Fawn is a selfish, troubled girl, who doesn't really care about anyone else.
We know from the get-go that there is a bad ending to this summer in Moline. We don't know what it is, but the author does a good job of foreshadowing the tragedy. And the denouement is stunning and affecting - I was not expecting it.
Add to all this narrative chapters that take place years earlier, when Raymond is driving out to take care of his younger sister Suzette. We know that Suzette is a mess, and makes poor choices in life to say the least. We also know that Raymond has an almost unnatural devotion to Suzette, and that he feels it is his responsibility to keep saving her. It is at the end of the chapters that cover this period of time that we find out what happened to Suzette.
All in all, I thought this was an interesting book, yet in criticism it just wasn't the page-turner I thought it would be. In fact, I had to struggle a bit to keep reading this book. Once I got towards the end I enjoyed it more, and as I said earlier, the ending really is terrific. But the journey towards that ending just didn't work well for me, and there were times I almost stopped reading. I love books from this time period, so I was surprised I didn't love this more.
I would recommend picking the book up and reading the first few chapters. There really are indicative of the flow and style of the book and you can get an idea if this book is for you.
Meant to add - one of the fun things about this book is that all chapters are titled after lyrics (a line or two) from popular songs from the 1960s and 1970s. I had fun trying to remember the songs (missed a couple), and thought it was a clever way of describing chapter contents and relating them to the time period.