Readability Age Range
- 8 to 12
Four different narrators tell this story: Virgil Salinas, Valencia Somerset, Kaori Tanaka and Chett Bullens. Virgil is a shy, skinny 11-year-old who struggles with learning and is afraid to speak up. Smart but friendless Valencia is deaf and in Virgil's resource class. Kaori calls herself a psychic and feels she was born in the wrong place. Chet is a bully who mocks those who are different.
Virgil's dad and brothers are soccer fans. When Virgil wants to take piano lessons, his dad says he needs to play sports, not fool around on a silly piano. Lola, his grandmother, tells him about a recurring dream: a boy begs a rock to eat him, and he gets eaten and is never seen again. Virgil wonders whether his parents would look for him if he were that boy. But he believes Lola would chisel the rock to pieces to find him.
Virgil ends his last day of sixth grade with one major regret. He failed to speak to Valencia, a girl he has seen at school and wanted to talk to. He schedules an appointment with Kaori to see if her psychic abilities can help him fix this Grand Failure.
Although Virgil goes out of his way to avoid Chet, the two cross paths. Chet calls him names and mocks him. Virgil envisions an alternate version of himself. His alternate would be able to grab Chet by the neck and throw him across the neighborhood. Chet would land on a chimney and be roasted. But in real life, Virgil runs away from Chet.
When Kaori learns of Virgil's problem with Valencia, she is sure she can help fix things. She tells him to meet her the next day with five special stones. Virgil agrees to do this. Kaori's mother says no one in the family is interested in second sight. Kaori's mother has no appreciation for former lives and reincarnation.
Meanwhile Valencia is having a recurring nightmare about being the only one left on the planet. She has no one she can talk to about the dream. When she sees Kaori's business card on the bulletin board at a local store, she wonders if Kaori can interpret dreams. She schedules an appointment on the same day as Virgil but uses an alias.
When Chet asks his father how people become deaf, his dad says they are born defective. He describes those with physical or learning problems as those who don't have it all going on upstairs. His father makes fun of an overweight woman, and Chet laughs. His father believes that sometimes you must teach people by embarrassing them. They make fun of a cashier in training. Chet says he can usually get his way with his mother, especially if his father backs him up.
The next day, Virgil puts Gulliver, his pet guinea pig, in his backpack as he searches the woods between his and Kaori's house for the five stones. While he is searching, he encounters Chet, who calls him names and makes fun of him for being in a lower-academic class.
Chet yanks the backpack off of Virgil and throws it down an abandoned well. Virgil starts climbing down the ladder to rescue Gulliver, though he is terrified at the prospect. When he is still a good distance from the bottom of the well, he discovers there are no more rungs. He wants to rescue Gulliver but is immobilized when he imagines all the frightening possibilities that could happen if he jumps to the bottom.
Finally, he looks down at Gulliver and jumps. He is unable to reach the rungs to climb back up and realizes he is stuck. He shouts for help, but no one hears him. While Virgil is in the well, he encounters Ruby, a ghost from a story he was told, and he carries on conversations with her.
Valencia says she and her mom don't agree on anything. Valencia refers to her mom's lectures as blah, blah, blah. Her mom always says I love you, but Valencia says it is always followed by something else like be careful or be sure to answer my texts. Valencia used to have a close relationship with her father, but she thinks he doesn't know how to be close now that she is 11 and too big to put on his shoulders.
Valencia enters the woods on her way to meet with Kaori. She sees the cover to the well but doesn't hear Virgil's shouts. Afraid that an open well might be dangerous for the animals in the woods, she places the cover back on and unwittingly traps Virgil inside.
When Virgil, who is normally prompt and reliable, doesn't show up for his appointment, Kaori knows something is wrong. She, along with Valencia and her 7-year-old sister, Gen, search for him. Valencia's mom texts her to come home, but Valencia ignores her quite a few times until she can tell her mom is worried. They eventually find him, and Valencia goes down the well with Gen's jump rope to rescue him.
After being rescued, Virgil encounters Chet on his way home. The bully once again begins taunting him. Virgil doesn't run. He tells Chet he will regret it if he ever calls him names again.
When Virgil returns home after being trapped in the well, his parents are busy watching TV and don't seem to notice him. His dad responds by telling Virgil to come watch television.