When Joe Takoma who once attempted suicide is due home from the hospital, his ninth-grade sister Barbara and her two friends Joslyn (the narrator)and Claudia (undergoing operations for a cleft palate) decide to fix up a room in an abandoned house so he'll have a beautiful place to go to when life gets ""too ugly"" again. There's a little subplot about Joslyn's low grades and her growing friendship with older brother Brian who tutors her for money and then for love, and another about her crush on Brian's friend Neil who takes up with Barbara instead. But this is organized around the efforts of the three girls, aided by Neil, to fix up the room with a tree, seahorse, fish, banners, windchimes, pillows, candles, books, rocking chair. . . . When Joe at last sees the room they all think it's a failure, but then it turns out he's used it after all--even though he does have to return to the hospital soon. McKillip seems to believe that the emotional by-products for the givers make their project worthwhile, but somehow the girls' scheme, which seems misguided from the start, gives all their activity an off-center, half. baked air.