Sherri and Cory have been best friends since they were five years old. Now, as high school freshmen, they are beginning to explore the wider world of relationships, which includes both friends and potential lovers. Cory finds a girlfriend, Sherri finds a boyfriend, and yet together they argue about their awakening sexual lives and what is normal, what is expected, and what is simply made up to satisfy a public hungry for sensationalism.
But Cory's family is getting ready to move away, and Cory hatches a plot to expose his father's affair to his mother in order to force a divorce that will allow his mother and him to stay. Sherri is an unenthusiastic partner, but she agrees to help her friend. In the process, however, the "other woman" is murdered, and Cory and Sherri soon find themselves instead desperately trying to find proof that the killer is not Cory's father, who has been charged with her murder.
Throughout the story, as the plot twists and turns around the murder mystery, Sherri wrestles with her budding sexuality and with the frustration that comes from her exploration of the ever-elusive female orgasm. Her curiosity is frank and unvarnished, her fumblings are human, and her feelings are genuine and relatable. This subplot is driven by a series of letters between the great nineteenth-century philosopher Kierkegaard and his fiance, Regina Olsen, who spent time with Darwin. Their exchange highlights various philosophies concerning true love, human freedom, and the divine versus the natural.
In the end, Sherri and Cory find that, although they are waking up to their individual personhood, they are still minors who are subject to the demands and the rules of their parents. And even though they are anxious to find autonomy, they first must learn to trust themselves and to trust each other as best friends who are entering another realm of their relationship.
Discussion questions concerning the various philosophical viewpoints and ideas in the novel, as well as about several important aspects of the plot, appear at the end of the book.
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