As the book opens, our narrator is trying to write down a history of what has happened. She was picked out of a group to do the job and everyone has been bugging her, telling her what and how to write it.
The narrator tells everyone to back off and give her space. She is sitting in a nature area and writes a bit about her surroundings in order to put off having to write about all the hard stuff.
Chris, one of the people in the group, was jealous that she was picked to do this writing, but since he only came into the story part way through, he couldn't have written it all down.
Writing their experience is quite important to the group—when someone named Robyn suggested it, everyone got excited.
The story everyone wants the narrator to write down begins with her and her friend Corrie deciding to get out of town and camp over winter break.
Apparently, camping is something these two did for years. And with that, the narrator's story begins.
The narrator and Corrie decide to get permission to camp with boys for the first time ever as well as to take the car farther than they've ever gone before.
They don't have much hope their wishes will be granted, but they figure they can ask anyway.
Part of the plan is to go to Tailor's Stitch and then into Hell, a wild place that seems impossible to reach. The narrator and Corrie have never known anyone to actually make it to Hell—well, except for the old legend around town about a murderer who lived in Hell all alone. Gulp.
Convincing their parents to let them go is hard, but they get permission so long as they have a larger group go with them.
With that, the narrator and Corrie set out to invite a bunch of people they wouldn't mind camping with.
We find out the narrator's name is Ellie (yay for names) when she tells us about making out with her boyfriend, Steve, during play rehearsal. Ellie and Steve, sitting in a tree…
A guy named Chris and his super uptight dad pop by Ellie's family's house and Ellie asks Chris if he can come camping.
His dad says no, noting that Chris needs to stay home while his parents travel over winter break. Bummer.
Later, Ellie rides over to her neighbor Homer's house, where she finds him at the creek fixing a water valve. They tease each other a little and Ellie helps him carry some water back to the pump.
At lunch, Homer announces to his folks that he's going camping. His brother questions him but Homer just makes fun of him in response. Ah, sibling bonding.
Later, Ellie finds out that Corrie talked Kevin into going, though he wanted to go to the farm show instead. Moo.
Next it's onto Fiona, who says she would like to go but her parents won't say yes until they talk to Ellie's parents.
On the TV, Ellie notices a man talking about the foreign minister being a wimp and how the defense budget has been cut way down.
Lee is next on the list for Ellie to call. She thinks about how she doesn't really know him but thinks he might be interesting since he's so different from anyone else she hangs out with.
He agrees to go even though he was supposed to play in a concert on Commemoration Day.
Lastly, Ellis calls up Robyn, who is sure her parents won't agree—Ellie busts out her powers of persuasion, though, and successfully smooth talks Robyn's dad into giving in.
In town a few days later, Ellie and her mother run into Fiona and her mother, and after a long chat Fiona's mom agrees that Fi can come camping.
With the group of seven all set, the girls get packing.
Ellie explains that she is going to describe the group members as she thought of them back at the beginning of the story—back before she knew them better.
She thought Robyn was quiet, serious, competitive, a good student, and religious; Fi was light, graceful, wealthy, well bred, and very girly; Kevin (a.k.a. Corrie's boyfriend) she found rural and annoying, with a big ego and too much confidence. She thought Lee was a smart, sulky, and temperamental artist/musician with a soft voice; and Homer was wild, free spirited, crazy, a trouble-maker, a hunter, and one of Ellie's good friends.