In this bittersweet story, 13-year-old Barbara and her little sister, Livvy, have lost their mother. They live with their father and grandmother, both alcoholics, in an inner-city neighborhood. Barbara spends much of her time as the family s chief cook, bottle washer, and nursemaid, isolated from the rmal experiences of adolescence. One afteron, Livvy chases a ball into the street and collides with a bicyclist the charming, exotic Cosmo. This young man teaches a clown workshop for teenagers and invites Barbara to participate. There she learns the joys of music, books, and dressing up. But she also learns that Cosmo has AIDS. When Barbara s father discovers that she s joined the workshop, he reacts violently. She flees to Cosmo, who gets her the help she needs before he dies.