Sixteen-year-old Fran Adamson is paraplegic, doomed to short life by a damaged heart, and desperately high-spirited. Like other handicapped characters, she is bitterly and convolutedly critical of the attitudes of normals, pitying or otherwise. Determined to make things happen, she wheels into Thornton Hall, her new institutional ""home,"" and swipes the false teeth of an elderly fellow resident. Soon she is plotting a match between a gorgeous nurse and the doctor in charge (they marry in the end), and, on the urging of their mutual volunteer ""aunt and uncle,"" she campaigns to use her female wiles on another newcomer, 18-year-old Lucas Hawkins--who has lost his legs in a motorcycle accident and now refuses to leave his room. Fran succeeds with Lucas too, gets him involved in a performance the residents give for visitors, and goads him into trying artificial legs. The doctor disapproves when Fran and Luke fall in love, as Fran hasn't told Luke of her limited life expectancy; but after some tortured ups and downs the two have a short time together before she dies. Both Fran's sudden, total acceptance of dying young and Luke's love for her (and loving talk) are hard to credit. However, Fran's desperate resolve to be an individual and a force despite her handicap bears some fruit, in the novel as in her life.