A lot happens to Stanley over the course of this book. The story begins with Stanley on a bus headed to Camp Green Lake. That sounds nice, but the camp is neither green nor fun. It is a punishment camp, and Stanley is going there for a crime he did not commit. After arriving at the camp, Stanley meets a few of the supervisors and some of the other boys that are at the detention camp.
Stanley finds out quite quickly that the events list for him and the other boys is quite short. They are supposed to dig holes every day. The holes are big; the weather is hot. Stanley will eventually learn that they are digging holes in an effort to uncover a treasure.
Stanley makes friends with some of the boys, and becomes quite close to Zero. Stanley even begins teaching Zero how to read. Zero eventually escapes from the camp. Stanley steals a water truck, crashes the truck, and follows Zero's trail on foot. Stanley finds Zero, and the two boys work their way to the top of a mountain in search of water. Zero becomes too weak to make it, and Stanley carries him the rest of the way. The action breaks his family's curse. The boys spend about a week together on the mountain before heading back to the camp and finding the treasure. The camp gets shuts down, and Stanley returns to his family.