In The Skin I'm In by Sharon Flake, seventh-grade Maleeka is insecure in her identity, and because she is Black, she is teased constantly at school. She falls in with a group of tough girls led by Charlese, who lets Maleeka hang out with her if Maleeka will also do her homework. But this "friendship" is not at all good for Maleeka, even though it seems to lessen the teasing, but only for a while.
Maleeka is punished for the first time when she gets into a fight with another girl. The girl blames Maleeka for something Charlese actually did, and Maleeka's punishment this time is a job in the school office. Her mother and her teacher, Miss Saunders, think this responsibility might help Maleeka stay out of trouble.
But Maleeka still hangs out with Charlese and her group, and the girls get caught smoking and writing graffiti on the bathroom stalls. They all get detention for this offense.
Charlese now holds a grudge against Miss Saunders (who caught the girls and gave them detention), and she decides that she will vandalize Miss Saunders's classroom in revenge. She threatens to beat up Maleeka unless Maleeka helps. The girls make quite a mess in the classroom, even starting a fire, and Maleeka gets caught by a janitor. She is suspended from school and charged $2000 to cover the damages. Charlese says that she will help pay, but Maleeka better not tell, or Charlese will beat her. Charlese even plants Miss Saunders's watch in Maleeka's locker to "prove" that the latter acted alone. Finally, though, Maleeka tells the truth and frees herself from Charlese and her group.