Jim Atwater doesn't show much reaction to the suicide of his terminally ill mother, but he does, insidiously, grow more and more possessively protective toward his little brother when the two boys are left alone in the large, fading Brooklyn Heights home of their proper stiff-lipped grandmother. Then Grandmother sends them off for the summer to their father, whom Jim understandably resents for having split when Byron, now eight, was a baby; once in Florida, Jim resents Dad even more for any fatherly gesture he makes toward Byron. Ironically, it is bombing out with Dad's waitress girlfriend that allows Jim to open up—just a crack—toward his father. Thus the air is a little clearer, and so is Jim's head, when he returns to New York for his senior year—willing at last to let go of Byron, who has taken to the barefoot life and decided to stay on with Dad. Jim tells the story in a clipped first person that reflects his veneer of cool; it also reflects a certain slickness on Peck's part—but not enough to invalidate his generally well-drawn relationships.