It opens with Rick returning home with his end of school exam results clutched in his hand to find that his mother has been on an alcoholic spree. He looks after his little sister, getting her first to a neighbour's and then to his gran's in Southend; then he abandons any further responsibility to leave home and shack up in a squat with Marie. From then on we follow his occasional forays taking drugs or hitchhiking into Wales to see his writing teacher and to Southend for Christmas with his family; he is occasionally reminded he has familial responsibilities but there is little serious conflict here. The book meanders, rather like Rick's life, with the only real question being whether Marie will stay with him.
- "A teenage mind tangled up in barbed wire knots."
- "I breathed in the sweet clouds of cancer."
- "I ... was oblivious of all the reality around me, unaware of the weight of life on grown-ups' minds."
- "I was alive like a ripple on a river - something deep was happening."
- "How long would we have to die in this queue?"
- "We lay body to body, warm skin to skin, warm soft lips to lips, soft tongue to tongue, teeth biting, legs tangled, arms locked around flesh, moving, crying out as we lost control together."
- "In London you were really content to know that the theatres were there, but really it was very rare that you'd actually go to one."
- "We were now self-contained in a magic box with a pink light, beds, carpet, compartments, curtains."
- "I was a young man thinking I've got a whole life ahead of me, what a drag."
- "It must be a hell of a life being a tree in this weather."