The story is centered on Ari, a homeless urban teenager. It is a coming of age story in the context of poverty, disillusionment and the failure of the American dream to embrace perceived outsiders. This story is about the real hopes and dreams of American kids' lives. A budding graffiti artist, Ari secretly calls himself Shelter Boy. At the same time that Ari is dealing with being homeless, he writes to another school boy who he dubs Rural Boy. Through their interactions, Ari discovers that Rural Boy wants to bring a gun to school, and that he too, feels isolated and ashamed of who he is. Ari's closest friend at school, Jackie, discovers she is attracted to Ari and wants to become closer to him. Ari is attracted to Cassie, another girl at school who wants to become an actor. Ari sees Cassie in an audition, and copies her telephone number from a sign up sheet. This starts a series of events that leads to all three characters realizing they are keeping their most personal secrets from one another.