At the story's start, we find out that Ronnie, the 17 year old female protagonist of this story, and her 10 year old brother are going to North Carolina to spend the summer with their father. Their parents divorced some time ago, and the children have not actually spent any time with their father, who is a composer and a musician, for three years. The attitudes of the two siblings are very different when they think about this. Jonah is very excited about spending time with his father again, as we would expect from a boy, but Ronnie definitely is not looking forward to seeing her father, as she blames him for the breakup of their family. She would much rather stay at home with her mother in New York, and in a typical teenage fashion, she makes this perfectly clear when they both arrive at the small beach house where they are to spend their summer.
The story mainly focuses on Ronnie's reconciliation with her father and her own discovery of love during this summer, but generally we see a broken family that is moved towards wholeness through the different events that transpire. Key to Ronnie's reconciliation with her father is the discovery of the reason why he actually left them, which changes her perspective completely.