The novel takes place about 1970-1988, in Aunt Cordelia and her brother Haskell’s neighborhood. The neighborhood, which is out in the country, is usually very quiet and orderly since the population is so few. All the children attend a one-room schoolhouse. Aunt Cordelia runs the schoolhouse and she teaches students from preschool through jr. high. Occasionally, the story’s setting will switch to Julie’s real home, which is in the city. The city is about 20 minutes away from Aunt Cordelia’s. That is where Aunt Cordelia’s students attend high school.
Julie didn’t always live with her aunt. She lived with her mother, father, sister, and brother until she was 7. That was the year her mother died. The doctors said that Mrs. Trelling’s death was upsetting Julie too much and that she was near hysteria. Thinking a change of scenery would do her some good, they sent her to live with her Aunt Cordelia and Uncle Haskell. Aunt Cordelia’s life was run very strict and proper. She was elegant and kind to everyone. She wanted her little Julie to be the same, so she warned Julie to be nice to an outcast named Aggie. Despite many warnings, Julie was never kind to Aggie. So when Aggie is taken over by an intense fever that soon kills her, Julie feels very guilty and vows to be a better person from that point on. She does become much more cooperative and respectful, but she still feels like she doesn’t belong. This feeling becomes stronger when her father remarries to her high school English teacher.
High school begins and the most gorgeous boy in school, named Brett, is interested in Julie. This makes her life-long friend, Danny Trevort, (who she has always been secretly in love with) a little jealous. Julie thinks she’s in love with Brett, but Brett has other ideas. He is talking Julie into doing his work so he doesn’t get expelled. Eventually this is realized, and while she breaks things off with him, she becomes heartbroken. A few long months later she recovers and realizes that even though she was attracted to Brett, she never loved anyone like she loves Danny. When she is riding home with Danny, they both admit that they have loved each other forever and they can’t deny it anymore. Everyone had always suspected the two were meant to be. So obviously, everyone was very pleased when Julie and Danny announced that they were “together”. She graduates as valedictorian from her high school and is ready to leave the country life for college. Danny is also in college, but he attends one that is very far from Julie. The story ends with Julie and Danny attending different colleges, but still together because they know if there love could survive everything they’d been through, it could survive being apart for a while. Julie is now seeing the world through the eyes of a woman, and is ready to take on whatever comes her way.
There are six main characters in the story. Aunt Cordelia is very strong-willed and loving. She raises Julie the best she can. She is very understanding when it comes to her niece because she can relate to some of the pain Julie faces while growing up. Uncle Haskell’s life is a lie. He makes himself sound so amazing, when really he’s nothing but an old drunk who’s dreams never came true because he was raised very badly. His life lesson to Julie was never pretend to be someone you’re not, in the end, it doesn’t get you anywhere. Chris (Julie’s brother) goes to a boarding school and helps Julie accept her new life with her aunt. Laura (Julie’s sister) is Julie’s ideal. Julie often makes very good decisions when she asks herself “What would Laura do?” Danny Trevort is the love of Julie’s life. He is the man who backs her up when she is right, stands up to her when she is wrong, encourages her when she is discouraged, and believes in her when no one else does. Lastly, there is Julie Trelling. She is a teenage girl who is forced to deal with many life-changing experiences. She lives a very complicated life. Somehow, she makes it through these tough times and turns into a wonderful woman.