Ethan Poe, sixteen and gay, struggles for balance while his life conspires to pull him in many different directions. His parents are divorcing; his older brother Kyle is damaging his right hand in the name of purity; his best friend is a Jesus freak who prays for him to be straight; he’s desperate to get his driver’s licnese, but he can’t seem to get enough supervised driving time. He’s just starting to see light in the form of Max Modine, a boy he wants to know much better than he does, when his rural Maine town begins to explode around him. Against his intentions he gets pulled into a pitched and sometimes violent conflict about whether to introduce Intelligent Design into science classrooms. Friendships end, families are torn apart, and the school becomes a battleground.
At the center of the fray is Etta Greenleaf, an older woman who has come out of relative seclusion to run for an open school board seat against the ID proponent. Ethan’s developing friendship with Etta and her fearsome dog is ironically both a haven from the vortex and the unavoidable path deeper into it.
Always seeking elusive balance, Ethan finds his way through a maze of lost friends, new love, and the mysteries of tattoos and power animals, with help from quarters where he never expected to find it. And he gains something better than balance.