At 17, Selah Madewell believes first and foremost in herself. She's captain of the Spirit Squad,most likely candidate for class valedictorian,and at the heart of it: ruthlessly selfish and as cruel as circumstances call for with little regard for the consequences. She's never made a habit out of feeling guilty.
At Pentamic High School,outside of Philadelphia,the student body is run by five factions. More than high school cliques,and not quite color-coordinated gangs,these factions provide everything Pontomic students need-term papers, parties,pills,booze.
When she was 13, Selah's desire for power as an end to itself led her-with her best friend, Max-to form Pentamic High School's most ruthless faction:The Spades. They control the drugs going in and out of the school, and Selah is consistently pushing their limits, unafraid to use violence to make a point. Now, with graduation fast approaching, she's looking to leave her legacy in capable hands.
At 15, Paloma Ray is a sophomore, and new to Pontomic. She feels most comfortable being in the background,carefully observing this new world and its rules. She's sharp. She's quick. She's got an eye for the details:what people do,and how it conflicts with what they say and what they want. But Paloma also wants to belong somewhere-to feel grounded and to believe in something larger than herself.
At the start of their senior year, Selah and Maxxie befriend Paloma, whose desire to fit in belies a moral code as capricious and gray as their own. As Paloma is pulled deeper into the Spades,she adopts their wit, their way of fun,their constant push to surpass their own potential,and their refusal to apologize for their behavior.
When Maxxie's attention and affections are turned elsewhere, his position in Selah's life wanes, and Paloma's importance waxes. More quickly than expected, Paloma must reconcile her own beliefs with her new responsibilities. Selah,without the familiar moral connection that her friendship with Maxxie provided, begins to lose control of her reign. She becomes determined to restore order, no matter the cost. When Paloma begins to see Selah for who she truly is...Selah can't take it,and Paloma must deal with the consequences.