Chapter Summaries

Chapter 1 Summary

On New Year’s Eve, 1987, teenaged friends Teddy and Jude smoke pot beneath the stadium grandstand of a small college in Lintonburg, Vermont. Teddy and Jude have been best friends since seventh grade, when Teddy moved to Lintonburg with his mother Queen Bea and his half-brother Johnny. Both Teddy and Jude have been abandoned by their fathers; Teddy never knew his, and Jude’s adopted father, Les, left for New York City when he was nine.

The grandstand fills up with fans, not something the boys expected. Jude takes an umbrella from beneath the seat of one unsuspecting fan, and tries to use the umbrella’s hook to filch wallets and purses. But the owner of the umbrella, a girl around the boys’ age, peers down and sees what they are up to. She comes down beneath the grandstand and demands her umbrella back, and the boys comply.

Earlier that day the boys discovered that Queen Bea, Teddy’s alcoholic mother, has left town, taking her all her money, liquor, and personal possessions, as well as a new bong given to Jude as a birthday present by his hippy mother Harriet.

After leaving the football game Teddy and Jude go to the mall in town. Jude wants to acquire some money and party supplies for the evening. The daughter of Jude’s father’s girlfriend is coming into town and Jude has promised to meet up with her and show her a good time. Outside the mall’s entrance, Jude’s mom has set a booth where she sells handblown glass art. Jude asks Harriet for money, but Harriet doesn’t have any money to give as business has not been good that day. They enter the mall and find Jude’s younger sister by only nine months, Prudence, at a bookstore. They ask Prudence for money too but she refuses to give them anything. Then they proceed to the Record Room, a music store in the mall where two of their friends, Kram and Delph, are employees. Kram and Delph are older, former friends of Teddy’s brother Johnny.


(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapter 2 Summary

On her way from a skiing trip in Stowe to her home in New York City, Eliza stops in Lintonburg, Vermont to meet two people she has heard about for some time but never actually met: Jude Keffy-Horn and his sister Prudence. For the past eight years Eliza has had a close relationship with Jude’s father, Les, who is dating her mother. Eliza thinks Les wants to reconnect with his children but he is too scared to do so.

Eliza is met at the train station by Jude and Teddy. Eliza is initially disappointed that she won’t get to meet Prudence but decides perhaps it is for the best since she gets along better with boys than with other girls. The three of them go to Ben and Jerry’s, where they talk about music. Eliza is a fan of the same underground bands as Teddy and Jude—and Les. Eliza tells Jude that she thinks Les wants to see him again, but Jude is dismissive of being reunited with his father. Teddy presses Jude to consider what Eliza is saying, but Jude refuses.

After Ben and Jerry’s they go out to the New Year’s Eve party where Jude hopes to meet up with Delph and Kram. The party’s host is a wealthy kid from school named Tory Ventura who often picks on Jude and Teddy, calling them “freaks.” When they get to the party, they don’t see their friends anywhere. Eliza goes off to look for beer and the boys run into Tory. Tory asks Jude and Teddy what they are doing at his party, and Jude responds with a rude comment. Before Tory and his friends can beat them up, Jude and Teddy run out the front door and take refuge in an unlocked car.

Later Teddy finds Eliza in a bathroom, where the keg of beer is located. After the keg is finished, Teddy and Eliza are left alone in the bathroom, the lights turned out. Teddy asks Eliza to deliver a message for him to his brother in New York. They talk for a while, then make out. Eliza shares some of her cocaine with Teddy. Eliza proposes that Jude and Teddy come with her back to...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Chapter 3 Summary

Flashing back seven years, it is New Year’s Eve on Jude’s ninth birthday. While his parents throw a New Year’s party, Jude retreats to his bedroom to play his new Atari video game, given to him that morning by his father. Downstairs the adults sing and dance to Paul Simon.

Suddenly the video game stops working, and after fiddling with the components, Jude is unable to bring the game back to life. He puts on his robe and boots and climbs out his third-floor bedroom window onto the fire escape, where he can see his father’s purple van as well as the greenhouse where Les grows marijuana plants. Suddenly his mother comes outside with Mr. Donahoe, Les’s boss at the college. The two adults have an intense, whispered conversation. The Donahoes are longtime friends of Jude’s parents, and as Mr. Donahoe and Harriet confer, Jude remembers a moment some weeks earlier when Harriet told him his father was out sailing with Mrs. Donahoe. Eventually Mr. Donahoe and Harriet go inside, and Jude goes back up to his room and falls asleep.

Several hours later Jude awakes to more sounds coming from outside. He looks out the window and sees Les in the yard. Les sees Jude leering out the window, so he asks him if he wants to join him in the greenhouse. Jude climbs down the fire-escape steps and enters the electrically lit room full of marijuana plants. Jude wraps himself in his sleeping bag and sits down on the floor next to his father, who is smoking pot. After a while Les unloads some shocking revelations on Jude. First he tells Jude that Mrs. Donahoe is pregnant, and that the pregnancy is a result of his affair with her. Les says that Harriet is angry and wants to end their marriage. Then Les tells Jude that he is adopted and that his mother was not Harriet but a teenager from New York. Les says that Jude was adopted when he ten days old.

As Les finishes this declaration, Harriet walks into the greenhouse carrying a birthday cake lit with nine candles. Harriet says she overheard the last bit of conversation, and she says she can’t believe that Les just told Jude everything. Later that night Jude remembers Harriet coming into his bedroom and singing the song for which he was named, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” softly at the foot of his bed. 

Chapter 4 Summary

The day after returning from Lintonburg, Eliza wakes up in the middle of the afternoon. As she showers and gets dressed, she thinks about Teddy and realizes that Teddy differs from the other boys she’s had sex with because of one crucial detail: she likes him. She then decides to go find Teddy’s half-brother Johnny and deliver the message Teddy gave to her. Teddy wants Johnny to know that their mother has disappeared and that he needs his help.

Eliza travels by subway from where she lives on the Upper West Side to the derelict part of town where Johnny is said to reside, in Alphabet City on the Lower East Side. Eliza finds Johnny’s basement apartment. On the other side of the door she can hear loud hardcore music with lyrics that boast about refusing to touch drugs and alcohol. She knocks on the door, and Johnny, dressed only in a pair of shorts, answers. Johnny is tall and skinny with lots of tattoos and a shaved head. Eliza explains who she is and gives him her message; then she and Johnny go find a payphone. When Johnny calls Jude’s house, he gets Prudence, who tells him that Teddy has died.

After two days of searching for Queen Bea, no one can find Teddy’s mother, and so a funeral is held for Teddy. Johnny takes Les’s van up to Vermont for the service and returns with Teddy’s ashes and his most prized possessions.

The paramedics find a host of drugs in Teddy’s system and deduce that he was killed not from the cold but from his heart stopping, likely due to the cocaine. Jude survives but has to stay in the hospital for a few days. One of Jude’s doctors tells Harriet that Jude likely has fetal alcohol syndrome, which could explain Jude’s erratic behavior and troubles in school.

After he gets out of the hospital, Jude refuses to do anything or see anyone. He stays in bed all day, occasionally receiving visits from Kram and Delph, who bring him pot. After Harriet confronts Kram and Delph, however, the two boys stop bringing drugs to Jude, and Jude struggles with sobriety. Harriet tries to coax Jude into returning to school but he is adamant about not going back; of course, now that he is sixteen, Harriet cannot force him to attend. One day Harriet brings a pamphlet about fetal alcohol syndrome she got at the hospital and tries to show it to Jude, but he won’t look at it. 

Chapter 5 Summary

As Jude’s pot stash runs out, he becomes desperate for drugs. Kram and Delph still come over but refuse to give Jude any more pot despite his repeated begging. One night Jude sneaks out of his room while Prudence and Harriet are having dinner and steals twenty-eight dollars from Prudence’s purse. He goes back to his bedroom, opens the window, and climbs down the fire escape. He goes out to find Hippie, a drug-dealing associate of Tory Ventura’s. The pot he buys from Hippie lasts two days, and after that Prudence and Harriet are vigilant about locking up their money.

Lying in bed with nothing to do and no pot to smoke, Jude thinks about Eliza and Teddy. He wonders where the cocaine found in Teddy’s system...

(The entire section is 421 words.)

Chapter 6 Summary

Sent away to a boarding school in New Jersey because she had been kicked out of her last two schools for drugs, Eliza finds herself committing to her studies and living a less chaotic lifestyle. Although she still regularly uses cocaine, she doesn’t socialize with the other students at school and channels all of her energy into her courses and practicing with the swim team.

Eliza’s roommate is Shelby Divine, a girl from Charleston, South Carolina who hangs a sheet in their bedroom for privacy and refuses to let Eliza see any part of her body beyond her wrists and ankles. One night Shelby sees the letters “TM” doodled in a heart on the front of Eliza’s notebook, and asks her what they mean. Eliza explains that...

(The entire section is 434 words.)

Chapter 7 Summary

On the way down to New York City, Les is surprised to find out that Jude hasn’t learned to drive, so he teaches him and makes him drive the rest of the way. Once they arrive they are exhausted and go right to sleep. When Jude wakes up in the loft of Les’s apartment, he realizes how small his new living quarters are.

Les sits on the futon smoking pot from a huge glass bong. Les explains to Jude the rules of his new life—he won’t have a curfew if he promises to stay out of trouble. Les shows Jude the secret vault where he stores the marijuana he sells all over the city and introduces Jude to the first of his dealers, each of whom arrive throughout the day. Les runs a sophisticated, regimented drug-dealing...

(The entire section is 439 words.)

Chapter 8 Summary

The friendship between Johnny and Jude grows quickly, as Johnny finds in Jude the little brother he never had, and Jude finds an entrée in the world of underground New York. The two spend their days together riding their skateboards, going to concerts, and visiting the Hare Krishna temple. Jude is initially reluctant to go completely straight edge, and still uses drugs occasionally, but it is clear that Johnny’s philosophy of spiritual and mental sobriety is having an effect on him.

Johnny, however, is tiring of the rapidly expanding scene. He sees that people are co-opting the straight-edge culture just to be cool, which bothers him. He even dissuades someone from getting the name of his band, Amy of One, tattooed...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Chapter 9 Summary

One night Jude borrows Les’s pistol and skateboards over to Johnny’s apartment. Johnny isn’t at home, so Jude sits down on the couch and looks over the book Johnny has been reading, a Hindu text called The Laws of Manu. Even after his burning, Jude has returned to the Krishna temple and devoted himself deeper to the values of cleanliness embodied by Johnny.

Eliza, Johnny and Jude start spending more and more time together, talking over the weighty secret of Eliza’s pregnancy which they now all share. Eliza hasn’t told her mother about the pregnancy because she knows Di will immediately suggest she have an abortion, and Eliza has decided she wants to keep the baby. Jude thinks Eliza should go see a...

(The entire section is 483 words.)

Chapter 10 Summary

For Eliza’s birthday Di invites Les, Johnny, and Jude all over for dinner. As Di’s maid, Neena, prepares lamb in the kitchen, Jude and Johnny are awed by the elegant interiors, the sumptuous paintings on the wall, and the grand piano in the living room.

The room is tense as Eliza unwraps her presents, which include a Tiffany bracelet and a Burberry scarf. Di asks Johnny about his job as a tattoo artist, and when Di expresses skepticism at his career, Eliza points out that she’s “practically married to a drug dealer,” a comment that doesn’t please Di. Les enters the living room, aware that Di knows about the pregnancy through two letters which arrived at her apartment that day, a bill from the hospital and an...

(The entire section is 466 words.)

Chapter 11 Summary

Arriving in Lintonburg, they stop at a gas station where they run into Kram. Kram can’t believe that both Jude and his old friend Johnny have returned. He’s also surprised at Jude’s shaved head and his embrace of the straight-edge lifestyle. Kram explains that he delivers pizza now and that Delph is the manager at the record store. He also suggests they get their old band back together.

Harriet’s life is significantly affected by the arrival of Jude, Johnny, and Eliza. Since Jude has been in New York, her relationship with Prudence has deteriorated, as the once needy and well behaved daughter has discovered a sullen, rebellious new attitude. Harriet studies up on vegan cooking so she can feed Johnny and Jude,...

(The entire section is 479 words.)

Chapter 12 Summary

Kram, Delph, Johnny, and Jude start rehearsing in Harriet’s basement. They play the fast raucous kind of hardcore played by Army of One. Occasionally Eliza comes down to the basement to listen. Jude subtly works on convincing his old friends into becoming straight edge. They’re already reformed significantly since New Year’s, with Delph quitting drug dealing and Kram cleaning up his life, so the work is not that difficult. When Jude tries to make a speech about becoming straight edge, Kram changes the subject by offering up a different idea. He suggests the band put on a show.

Jude also hasn’t forgotten what Hippie and Tory did to Harriet’s studio. He continually thinks about what he can do to get them back,...

(The entire section is 443 words.)

Chapter 13 Summary

The Champlain Recreation Center in Lintonburg is the site of the first concert by the Green Mountain Boys, the name Jude and his friends have chosen for their band. Johnny has been able to convince his old band, Army of One, as well as another band from New York called Phrog, to come up to Vermont to perform. It is the first straight edge show in Lintonburg and lots of kids from the city and surrounding areas show up, giving their five dollars to Eliza who sits at the front door.

In order to avoid detection by Hippie or Tory, who don’t know that he’s returned to town, Jude wears a plastic Ronald Reagan mask during the concert. With Johnny on guitar, Kram on drums, Delph on bass, and Jude singing and playing guitar,...

(The entire section is 523 words.)

Chapter 14 Summary

Johnny creates the excuse that he has mono and leaves for New York. Meanwhile, Jude takes control of the Green Mountain Boys and the burgeoning straight-edge scene in Lintonburg. More kids are joining the group in Harriet’s basement everyday, including two skaters named Big Ben and Little Ben, and a Korean-American named Matthew Stein, the adopted son of a Jewish dentist.

A small industry springs up around Jude and his friends. In addition to practicing with their band and performing for kids in Lintonburg, they produce a zine featuring interviews of members in other straight-edge bands, make and sell tee shirts, and book touring hardcore bands to play at the rec center in Lintonburg.

Jude, Kram, and Delph...

(The entire section is 398 words.)

Chapter 15 Summary

Even as Jude and his friends are finding meaning and fulfillment in following the straight-edge way, Eliza looses herself in loneliness and sadness. She misses Johnny, misses her mother, at times even misses the slavish attention Jude used to shower on her. Harriet is the only person who looks after Eliza. She wakes up Eliza after she has been sleeping all day and encourages her to eat lunch.

Buoyed by the news that he doesn’t have AIDS, Johnny starts to think of his next move. More and more he thinks about Teddy, and Teddy’s baby. Johnny starts to believe that Teddy would want him to do the thing he always wanted to do himself and track down his father. Even though all Johnny can remember is the man’s name, Ravi,...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Chapter 16 Summary

A zine from the fall of 1988 features an interview with Mr. Clean (Johnny) and Jude Green (Jude) of the Green Mountain Boys. In the interview Johnny and Jude talk about the reasons behind their strict straight-edge lifestyle and explain the scuffles they have been in as they tour the country. Johnny talks about the importance of Krishna to his philosophy and mentions Eliza, his pregnant wife, but Jude pushes the interview back toward the subject of music.

In a essay titled “How I Spent My Summer Vacation,” Little Ben, now known simply as Ben as the former Big Ben has left the group, talks about going on the road with the Green Mountain Boys, serving as their roadie and all-around-helper.

Wanting to avoid...

(The entire section is 465 words.)

Chapter 17 Summary

When they arrive at the hotel in Philadelphia, Kram and Delph confess that they have been straying from the straight-edge path recently by drinking beers, smoking cigarettes, and going to strip clubs. Jude is furious at their duplicity but Johnny advises patience, that they shouldn’t be trying to force people into lifestyles that they’re not comfortable with.

That night Jude performs with anger, throwing his energy into the performance, but after the show the other people on tour avoid him. Unable to sleep, Jude runs into Eliza outside the hotel room she shares with Johnny. Eliza doesn’t know what to make of Johnny’s aloofness. For a while she has feared he is seeing another woman, but that doesn’t make sense....

(The entire section is 444 words.)

Chapter 18 Summary

For fifteen years Ravi Milan has waited every day to hear from son Teddy, who he knows as Eddy. But one days he receives a letter not from Teddy but from Teddy’s brother Johnny, informing him of Teddy’s death. Ravi has a new wife and is a divorce attorney now, but he has no children and willingly meets with Johnny when he is passing through Miami with the Green Mountain Boys.

Ravi shows Johnny some mementos he has kept from the period when he lived with Queen Bea, who was known as Bonnie then, and the young boy Teddy. Ravi tells him how he was harried by the authorities after they left. He eventually became so frustrated with the work of the attorneys he hired that he became one himself.

Johnny tells...

(The entire section is 407 words.)

Chapter 19 Summary

Eliza invites everyone to live with her at Di’s luxurious apartment. Johnny takes the servant Neena’s room, Jude sleeps in the master bedroom, and Eliza sleeps in her old room. Kram and Delph and the other guys spend their days roaming around the city, Johnny spends time with Rooster, and Jude and Eliza are left to themselves.

Tensions are heating up in Tompkins Square Park, the locus of Johnny’s old neighborhood, between the police and the homeless. High-end real estate developers are moving into the area, and the authorities are being forced to push out the vagrants who have called the park home for years. Johnny is stirred by what he sees as the inherent injustice of this situation, as the people who have...

(The entire section is 543 words.)

Chapter 20 Summary

After hanging up the phone Jude tries to get his head around hearing Johnny’s voice on the phone line calling someone “Baby.” Suddenly it all clicks into place, and Jude realizes that Johnny is gay and that Rooster is his lover. It is the only explanation for Johnny’s strange, aloof behavior of the past few months, his frequent disappearances, not to mention the large amount of time he spends with Rooster.

Jude goes into Eliza’s room burdened with his new discovery, but he can’t bring himself to tell her everything. He says only that he heard Johnny on the phone calling someone “baby,” not that he is sure that person is Rooster. Eliza seems both shocked and relieved by this announcement. Then she and...

(The entire section is 513 words.)

Chapter 21 Summary

Eliza wakes up in the hospital, to the sight of Les, her mother, Johnny, and Jude sitting at her bedside. The first question she asks after she comes to is “Is the baby okay?” Di says that the baby is fine, that the heart rate was up for a while but now it’s stable. Di says that she was hit in the head the previous night by a police officer and that she has a concussion. Jude and Johnny are bruised and battered but fine. Di says that they had to cut away part of Eliza’s hair in order to stitch up her gash.

The men leave, and Eliza is left alone with her mother. Di tells her about how hard she’s looked for her, and how glad she is to finally find her. Eliza tells her that Johnny is not the father.


(The entire section is 449 words.)

Chapter 22 Summary

Jude goes back to Les’s apartment, where his father is smoking pot from his newest bong. Les asks Jude if he wants some. For a moment Jude considers it but in the end refuses.

The next morning Jude calls Ravi at his hotel and asks to have breakfast with him. Meeting at a café downstairs, Ravi tells Jude about his determined search for Teddy and explains that after Bonnie (Queen Bea) found out he was cheating on her, she deserted him with Teddy as a means of enacting revenge. He says that Teddy was like a pawn to Bonnie, that she used him as an instrument of her anger.

Jude wonders why Bonnie left Teddy at New Year’s, and Ravi speculates that it was because she feared that Teddy would find Ravi and that...

(The entire section is 435 words.)

Chapter 23 Summary

When Harriet wakes up, she is surprised to see Les’s van in her driveway and Jude and Eliza asleep in the bedrooms upstairs. She wakes Jude up and asks him about the cuts and bruises on his face, but Jude will say only that it doesn’t matter anymore.

Harriet doesn’t press Jude because she is so happy to have him back. She explains that he’s safe now from Tory. Tory came by with a bunch of his friends looking for Jude, but when Bob, Harriet’s new boyfriend, appeared in the living room with his pistol hanging from his holster, the boys immediately left. According to Prudence, Tory is leaving for Duke University and a football scholarship in the coming weeks.

Bob comes over for dinner, and Jude...

(The entire section is 418 words.)

Chapter 24 Summary

Jude looks out across Central Park from the inside of Mount Sinai hospital. He’s in a hallway waiting while Eliza gives birth to her baby. Jude thinks that it is a coincidence, but not a very big one, that this child is being born in the same hospital where he was born, to the alcoholic teenager who gave him up for adoption to Les and Harriet.

He goes down with Di to look at the newborns at the nursery. Di has been more relaxed since she successfully gained an annulment of the marriage between Johnny and Eliza on the account that it was never consummated. Plus, Ravi has dropped his adoption lawsuit, writing that he and his wife have decided to adopt a child from India. Jude hasn’t heard anything from Johnny, who has...

(The entire section is 504 words.)