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 normal experiences of adolescence. One afternoon, 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.