Before the book begins, we get a glimpse of an eighteen-year-old veteran named Jimmi, who's hanging out with his friends Fatima and Mik in a cave. They're injured and need help. In an hour, Jimmi will be hanged… And then we jump backward, to about a month before.
A hearing-impaired girl named Mik is sick of everyone talking to her about her hearing. She knows her mom wants the best for her, but she doesn't see what the big deal is. Her old hearing aids are muffled and give her ear infections, but who cares? She can turn them off when she wants to block the world out. Even her manager (at her after school job at the local convenience store) offers to pay for a special surgery to give her more hearing. She feels badly taking his money, but he insists.
Meanwhile, a young African refugee named Fatima arrives in New York City, excited to finally be in the city that never sleeps. First up on her agenda? The Statue of Liberty. She has to find a job and housing before she can go sightseeing, though, and she lands herself gigs as a papergirl and volunteering at the VA hospital teaching kids.
One day, she runs in to Jimmi at the hospital. He's already been to war and back and he's only eighteen—he saw some pretty messed up things overseas, so now he's depressed and on drugs. Fatima befriends Jimmi and makes him paper angels to give him hope.
After school one day, Mik meets Fatima selling newspapers. The girls become fast friends and start spending more time together, and Fatima convinces Mik to go to the doctor about her ears. It turns out the money her manager gave her can cover new hearing aids that are clearer and won't get her ears as infected. Sounds perfect, right? Wrong: Mik hates the idea of hearing all the time. She likes being able to turn the sound of the world off when it bugs her, so she gets the hearing aids, but she doesn't use them.
Immigration laws are getting stricter and more severe in NYC. Fatima is worried she'll be deported, so Mik and her mom take her to an immigration lawyer. He agrees to help them out… for a hefty fee. They hand over every penny they've ever saved and cross their fingers that Fatima's application will be accepted soon so they won't have to run from the police anymore.
Walking home from school one day, Mik gets stopped by a mean girl named Shanelle and her posse. They cut Mik with a box cutter. Why? It turns out the guy Shanelle digs has been flirting with Mik, and Shanelle wants to put an end to it. Mik's hurt and confused, and to make matters worse, Shanelle is rallying her troops to attack.
Luckily, Jimmi comes to her rescue and takes her away from all the people. In the shuffle, though, everyone thinks Mik's been kidnapped by war-vet-turned-drug-addict Jimmi—so a mob starts forming to look for the guy who is hurting a hearing-impaired girl. Ugh.
When the mob catches up with Jimmi, they tackle and punch him, eventually hanging him upside-down. Fatima sees all this and wants to put an end to it, so she stands between Jimmi and the crowd, demanding they put him down. Eventually, the police show up, save Jimmi, and take the girls to the station for questioning. It's too bad Jimmi is drugged at the hospital where he's recovering, because he accidently spills the beans that Fatima is an illegal immigrant, and the police arrest her.
Mik and her mom visit Fatima in the detention center, but instead of being upset, she's calm and peaceful; she's glad she got to come to America. Mik is down in the dumps about losing her friend and feels the whole thing is unfair. She starts using her new hearing aids so she can hear more of what's happening around her, and though they still bug her, she's getting used to them.