Suffering from a fractured spine as a result of a freak accident, Carly Stern, 13, has a protracted healing and must return to school in a brace. From the accident--a hammock broke and left Carly flat on her back on the ground--and her family's other troubles Carly gleans insights into life and gains new maturity, commented on roundly by all the other characters. In the process, she helps her best friend Michelle, who feels personally responsible for Carly's injury, to accept what has happened and live blame-free. Superficial pronouncements of so-called serious thoughts ("". . .so many things are just not important compared to being able to walk"";"" 'My body's healing helped all of us to grow,' I said, trying to be matter-of-fact"") are uttered by cardboard characters who are little more than names attached to dialogue and action. Convolutions of the plot--Carly's older sister is on the verge of divorce, the parents are in the middle of business troubles, a teacher comes down hard on Carly--add to the strain in this problem novel, a book of little substance and even less style.