Monica Dickens's novel opens in a Juvenile court in London. One of the young offenders is a sixteen-year-old girl, Kate, who is described as being in need of care and protection. In the court is a girl only slightly older, Emma, daughter of the magistrate. From her experience of going around with a social worker on his calls she knows that adolescents and, more important, small children are daily subjected to neglect and brutality and that "care and protection" cannot be prescribed like National Health aspirin. She meets Kate again, by chance, in her Uncle's supermarket where she is learning the business from the bottom up. And between these two girls, from different backgrounds, with very different parents who have different personal problems, there springs up a friendship which is deep and, for a while at any rate, beyond misunderstanding. Each girl has her way to make in life, each has her love, hate, despair and hope, each the complications of parental control sapped by the inner knowledge of marriages that no longer work.