||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (April 2014)|
The Fisher family and their sons, Erik and Paul, all recently moved from Texas to Lake Windsor Downs in Tangerine County, Florida, because of Mr. Fisher's job. Erik, the older son, also looks forward to playing football and looking to get a football scholarship at the university of his choice. Paul, the younger son, is visually impaired and considered legally blind, yet he still plays soccer and was the goalie in his last school. His family tells Paul he is blind because he stared into a full solar eclipse when he was a young child, but he doesn't remember it at all.
After they unpack, Paul goes for a tour at his new school, Lake Windsor Middle School. Mike Costello, a high school football player, and his brother Joey, who is Paul's age, are introduced. One day at football practice, Mike Costello is then struck and killed by lightning. Paul watches as Erik and his friend, Arthur Bauer, joke around in the backyard after hearing the news, even though Mike was one of their fellow team members. On his first day of school, Paul meets Coach Walski, the coach of the soccer team. Paul knows he is a good goalie and tries out for the team, but is later told by the coach that he is not eligible to play on the team because of liability issues with his visual impairment. Paul is very disappointed and blames it on his mother, who had submitted an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) to the school, declaring his condition.
Soon after, while Paul is at school, a field of portables holding students in classrooms collapses into a sinkhole. Many people, including Paul and Joey, try to rescue those who are trapped; no one gets seriously injured. The emergency relocation plan gives the kids the choice to stay with a different schedule and more crowded classes, or to transfer to Tangerine Middle School, on the other, poorer side of the county with a minority majority population. Paul chooses to go to Tangerine Middle because he wouldn't have an IEP filed there, allowing him to play soccer again. Paul meets a lot of new people on the soccer team, who at first they aren't very open to him. They think he'll be a stuck up kid because of his less disadvantaged background. Victor, the team captain, and Tino, another player, are undecided whether they want to start a friendship with him. However, after winning the first game (against the aggressive Palmetto Whipoorwils), Victor realizes Paul's talent and dedication to the team, and accepts him. Unfortunately, Tino isn't so sure.
Soon after, Joey starts to get sick of Tangerine Middle because none of Paul's new friends think he's cool, and Joey thinks that Paul acts like a coward around the other students at school, especially those on the soccer team. After almost getting into a fight, Joey finally goes back to Lake Windsor, leaving Tangerine Middle School and their soccer team.
Throughout the story, houses in Paul's neighborhood have to be fumigated for termites and palmetto bugs. While under the tents, many of the houses are robbed by Erik and his friend Arthur. A man named Luis is introduced as the brother of Theresa and Tino. Luis works at his parents' citrus farm and is developing a new kind of tangerine called the Golden Dawn. While at Paul's house for a school project, Tino makes a comment about how Erik fell down while attempting to a kick an extra point during an earlier football game. In response, Erik punches Tino. Luis finds out and goes to Erik's football practice to confront him. Erik distracts him while signalling for his friend Arthur to hit Luis in the back of his head with a blackjack. Luis seems fine at first but is found dead six days later. Only Paul, Luis and Antoine (another football player at Lake Windsor High School Football Team) know the truth- Paul had been hiding alone under the football bleachers and saw his brother Erik signal for Arthur to attack Luis. Paul is told by Theresa not to go to the funeral because he is Erik's brother, so instead he grieves and pays respect to Luis in his own way alone.
On the Senior Awards Night, Tino and Victor show up to beat up Erik and Arthur as revenge for killing Luis. The football coach manages to restrain Tino, but Paul jumps on the coach's back, distracting him long enough for Tino and Victor to escape. Paul runs back to his house where he has a flashback from his childhood, the day his vision was damaged. Erik believed that Paul told on him and his friend Vincent Castor for spray painting a wall in their old neighborhood, so to get back at him, Erik held Paul's arms behind his back and pried open his eyelids while Vincent sprayed spray paint in Paul's eyes. Paul is furious with his parents for lying to him all these years and finally confronts them about how his vision was really damaged. His parents insist they were trying to do the right thing and protect him from growing up hating his brother, but Paul retorts that instead of hating his brother, he's been hating himself all along. Then Paul's grandparents come over and tell Paul's parents "I told you so," reminding them that they suggested Erik should go through therapy for his anger issues when he was younger. Arthur is arrested for murdering Luis and Erik is waiting to be arrested for the murder. Paul is expelled from the entire Tangerine school district for jumping on the coach, so he has to transfer to St. Anthony's, a private Catholic school. Though he is excited to finally become the "bad kid," he will still play for Tangerine War Eagles Soccer Team. The story ends on his first day of St. Anthony's.