The novel is based on events which happened to the author's son, David, and the loss of a close childhood friend. The two main characters, leslie and Jesse, both face the challenges of being outsiders in the cruel world of middle school.
The plot deals with bullying, change, loss and hope. Leslie moves to Lark Creek Elementary School and is immediately different with her unconventional dress, wild imagination and inner strength. Jesse is at first angered then captivated by this free spirit and they create an imaginary world - Teribithia - together. Here they develop the strategies for dealing with the challenges of everyday life. Jesse is liberated from the fear of his father's rejection of his creative skill and learns that self-expression is a powerful force. After the sudden death of Leslie, Jess learns how their experiences in Teribithia can help him move forward and express himself to his family and those around him.