We open in medias res with a gathering of teens that call themselves the Interestings.
Only a few seconds in, the protagonist pops up—Julie Jacobson, "an outsider and possibly even a freak" (1.1).
Julie tries to go unnoticed in the corner of the… teepee? Wait, where are these people?
We get introduced to Julie's first fear: someone noticing her and then wondering what she's doing among the cool kids. Harsh.
Miniature flashback moment: While standing in the bathroom, a girl with a ridiculously hip name, Ash Wolf, casually invites Julie to hang out.
More of the flashback happens and we get the sense from the old, ratty towel Julie uses to wipe her face that she doesn't come from a wealthy family.
Julie fantasizes about what it would have been like to turn down the glorious opportunity to be part of the Interestings.
There's a moment of narrative wistfulness when we learn that these teenagers are firmly in the ironic years where nothing is said straight.
Fast-forward at blinding speed as their entire lives are rolled up in a couple sentences that take you through their adult years.
Jumping back from that little-did-they-know kind of moment, it becomes obvious that they're at a summer camp and currently chilling in Boys' Teepee 3.
Enter Goodman Wolf, Ash's older brother with an equally improbable name.
Ash decides the group should have a name.
In a moment of biting sarcasm, they christen themselves the Interestings, and toast with joints and vodka and Tang. Classy.
Julie clearly worships these people.
We find out the group is from NYC, while Julie hails from the apparently dismal New York suburbs.
Context, finally: It's the summer of 1974, which explains the joints and the surprising bitterness of these teenagers.
All the President's Men is the hot topic of the day and the teens see it as a representation of horrific adulthood; Nixon gets compared to a slug.
There's a brief mention of the camp owners, Manny and Edie Wunderlich, who are described as "two aging Socialists" (1.12). 1970s, remember?
The story turns to one of the other members of the teepee group, Ethan Figman.
Ethan is ugly as all get-out and hugely popular at the camp, based on how he's being hugged and greeted by everyone.
Julie and her sister Ellen come upon this scene and Ellen says something mean about Ethan.
There's a big ol' foreshadowing moment where Julie defends this random stranger because she feels protective of him.
With an abrupt segue into Julie's backstory, we learn that her father died a few months ago from pancreatic cancer.
It's a weird and hilariously morbid moment, but Julie remembers getting her period while her dad was dying and not being able to use the bathroom since he was always in it.
Turns out Julie's dad died in January and she went to the summer camp on scholarship to get away from the depression and sadness in her house.
Our suspicions about the Jacobson family's low finances are confirmed.
Shifting back to present-day, we find out that Ethan's an animator and the chief joint-roller in the party.
Another player in this scene pops up—Jonah Bay, who appears to have no defining characteristics yet besides being the son of a famous folksinger.
Nixon comes up again because, hey, it's the 70s.
Next to Jonah sits Cathy Kiplinger, a well-endowed fifteen-year-old who dances all day.
King of the group, Goodman Wolf sits above everyone on a top bunk and the story tells us he's big and lazy and mysteriously influential among the other campers.
There's another quick little-did-they-know moment about Goodman, whose life ends up on an "alarming trajectory" (1.23).
We finally learn the camp is called Spirit-in-the-Woods.
The Wolf kids are a cornerstone of the camp and have been for several years.
It's clear the narrator loves foreboding little bits of story, so we're told that they all spend one more summer there and then only four of them meet up as adults.
Apparently Julie becomes Jules at some point in the near future—right now, however, Julie is an awkward teen with a terrible perm her mother got her.
What would have been a funny moment turns abruptly sad as we learn Julie got a perm because she destroyed her own hair while her father was dying.
Jonah brings in some cassette tapes and everyone pretends they like the music because he does; they pretentiously discuss books by "spiky and disaffected European writers" (1.33).
There's a brief, startling reminder that they're all in school when they mention summer reading for class.
As all teens do, the group discusses their parents, and we find out Ethan's are separated.
Ash invites everyone to the Labyrinth, though she doesn't explain what that is.
We learn through Julie's head that Ethan spends his free swim period in the animation shed with a former Disney production member, Old Mo Templeton.
Julie thinks about all their saliva mixing through sharing a joint and starts laughing to herself; Ethan designates himself Julie's protector (at least in her mind).
Julie falls in love with the group as a single entity.
Ethan's parents aren't just separated—his mom is sleeping with his pediatrician.
Ash and Goodman's parents, Gil and Betsy, are "happy as clams" (1.55), and they seem a little proud to have that kind of home.
There's a brief reference to the My Lai massacre, which shuts everybody up for a second.
Ethan makes fun of Goodman's name, and they all mock a girl who is supposedly named Crema Seamans.
Goodman jumps down from the upper bunk and sits on Cathy's feet, but she doesn't seem to mind.
Julie makes her first comment out loud to the group, and they reward her with their attention; Goodman calls her Jacobson, which makes her super happy.
Julie makes a funky mock toast, and Ash christens her Jules—her place in the group is officially cemented.
Jonah picks up the guitar and plays a little. Jules is wowed.
An Icelandic camp employee, Gudrun Sigurdsdottir, breaks up the party and sends the girls back to their own tepees.
Ethan catches up to Jules and takes her to the animation shed to show her his drawings.
Jules watches an early version of Ethan's Figland cartoon and realizes he's a genius.
Ethan completely misreads everything and tries to kiss Jules, but she rejects him, and Ethan decides it's because she's inexperienced—not, you know, because he smells "mushroomy, feverish, and overripe" (1.124).
Ethan convinces her to reconsider dating him.
Back in the girls' tepee, Jules and Ash bond over "moments of strangeness" (1.142).
Cathy interrupts Jules's story time, though, and Jules misses out on the opportunity to tell Ash what happened with Ethan.
The girls settle into bed for the night and Jane Zell tells them about her sister with the neurological disorder.
Cathy sympathizes by telling them about her dream to be a dancer that's hindered by her large breasts. Totally the same thing… er…
Nancy Mangiari takes out her cello and plays; Cathy dances and gives the girls life lessons about men.
The story jumps ahead through the next few weeks of camp where Ethan and Jules spend a lot of time together.
Jules tells Ethan about her father's death and sings him the folksong he used to sing to her.
Ethan tells her the song is about nuclear testing, and shares his own stories about his parents' fights.
Jules realizes she sadly never knew much about her dad, and somehow this leads to a Freudian moment of her and Ethan making out.
We learn that Jules has quickly become someone at the camp, including an actress in the camp plays.
Jules becomes addicted to the laughter she gets in a comedic role.
Jonah's mother makes a surprise appearance with a former bandmate, Barry Claimes.
Susannah Bay sings her signature song to the campers, and later learns her son left during the performance. Burn.
Jules muses about the weirdness of her friendship with Ash and Ethan.
Ethan talks about Susannah's melancholy song in the hopes of depressing Jules enough to want to kiss him again. Um… way to be a creep, dude.
Jules finally tells Ethan she won't keep trying to respond to him, and firmly insists it isn't what she wants.
They watch Goodman and a random girl from camp kiss, and Jules gets aroused thinking about kissing Goodman instead of Ethan.