Since she was twelve, C.J. has worked to put the dream of a better life within her younger brother Charlie’s reach. When he threatens to drop out of high school, his parents send him to Meridian to live with his sister Metairie for the summer and work on a garbage truck. Spying a pretty girl in the school yard on his way home from work, Charlie begins hanging out at the Meridian Freedom School where Zach, unaware that he is C.J.’s brother, works to draw him in. Crisis ensues within the Evans family when Charlie asks to quit his job in order to attend the school fulltime. Metairie and her husband fear for their economic well-being if the boss finds out why Charlie has quit. C.J. is called home from Chicago to help. In Meridian, face-to-face with Zach again and seeing a turnaround in Charlie, C.J. must choose between the fear handed down by her momma and daddy and the hope Charlie has been learning. Ultimately, she realizes that everyone has the right to a dream. Like freedom, though, a person’s dream must come from inside them. No one else wishing and hoping it will make it happen. Just as she could not define Charlie’s dream, Zach cannot define hers. Only she can weigh family against love.
Idealistic to a fault, Zach thinks differences don’t matter and expects everyone to live as he does. When he leaves Chicago for Mississippi, despite C.J.’s fear and begging him not to go, his plan seems beyond question. After the summer, he will come home to her and declare his love, and they will move forward together. But her unexpected arrival in Meridian, where the Summer Project has imposed a strict taboo against interracial dating, causes him to realize that things are not as simple as he had believed. Now, he must decide whether wanting to be with C.J. so badly and believing in them so absolutely are enough, or whether it is best to let her go to find her own dream.
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