At a boarding school in 1982, four boys go down to the river one day. Three boys come back: the fourth, Thomas Brougton, is dead. Of the remaining three boys, one admits to drinking and is expelled, but the other two – the narrator, Alex, and his friend Glenn – lie, and are allowed to remain. Unlike the narrator of John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, Alex has in no way caused Thomas’ death, but he feels responsible nevertheless. Glenn, who may in fact be more culpable than Alex allows himself to consider, is afraid that their English teacher, Miss Dovecott (on whom Alex has a crush, and who encourages his writing), saw more that day at the river than she has admitted, and wants to oust her from the school. Alex is drawn into Glenn’s plan reluctantly, all the while trying to work through his own grief and guilt through his writing, both in his journal and in poems.