The story starts out in a quite, quaint town, where anybody would be happy to raise their children. The story revolves around a teenage girl named Meg Loughlin, and her sister Susan, who is crippled. The story is told by a young boy named David who met Meg down at a stream, while he was hunting for crayfish. David was twelve and a half at the time, but he knew that Meg was older. He says that she was the prettiest girl that he had ever seen. Meg told David that she came from New York City. When she reached into the water for a crayfish, he noticed a large scar on her arm. When David asked her what had happened, all she would tell him was that she was in a car accident, and her and her sister were staying with the Chandlers.
David had grown up living next door to the Chandlers. Ruth Chandler had three sons, Willie, Donny, and the youngest was Ralphie, but everyone but his mother called him Woofer. David thought that Ruth was the greatest thing on earth, but he didn't get along with her sons too well sometimes, but other than that, Donny was his closest friend. It turns out that Meg is second cousins with the boys, and Ruth is her aunt. Before the story is over, you will find out why David, who loved Ruth Chandler, now hopes that she rots in hell for all eternity.
David and the other boys in town usually hung out at the Chandler house. They lived at a dead end street, and Ruth Chandler would always let the boys drink a beer, and smoke cigarettes, so that is where they went to hang out. David got along with all the boys, but he tried to stay away from Eddie the Nature Boy. David says Eddie was the craziest kid he ever met, and that scared him.
The day after David met Megan, all the boys were hanging out together. Donny told David that Megan's little sister, Susan had been crippled in the same car accident that Megan got all of her scars from. Donny also told David that their parents died in that accident and the Chandlers were the only living family that they had left, and that was why they got stuck with them. Donny said they were lucky to get to live with them, and not in some orphanage, but David soon found out that they would have been luckier to live on the street, all alone.
David soon ran into Meg again, this time at the town Karnival. David loved the carnival, but it was only ten o'clock, and all of his friends had deserted him. He was standing in front of a game when she showed up. He was so nervous, he didn't even remember buying them the ride tickets for the Ferris wheel. He was so excited when she held his hand, he could barely talk. That was the moment he fell in love with her. Meg told David that night that Mrs. Chandler was a little odd, and Woofie was really weird. Then she leaned in and told him something really weird, she said she didn't like the basement, the shelter. David knew what she was talking about. Mr. Chandler had built a small shelter in the basement before he ran out on his family. He had sand bagged the windows, and put mesh wiring over them. Mr. Chandler had the room stocked with canned food, a small stove, an axe and a crowbar, and even a pick and a shovel. The shelter had gotten ratty over the years, but the boys played in it sometimes. David said it was scary, and sometimes the boys would use it to scare each other, and that's all it was good for. David doesn't know it yet, but he will never be able to forget that old shelter. Many boys and girls will be stripped of their innocence in the Chandler's basement, all because of one aging woman, who is going crazy and nobody knows.
You have to read the book to find out what horrible things happen in that old shelter. Who will be involved, and will anyone die? Will any of the neighborhood boys and girls come out of their teenage years without being mentally wounded for the rest of their lives? This book is truly a disgusting horrifying tale, but a great written, intriguing novel.