Rashad and Quinn are both students at Springfield Central High School. They have some friends in common but have never interacted with each other. Rashad is Black, and his father has told him throughout his life about the importance of discipline for young Black men. Rashad’s father joined the army and then the police force before retiring and often tells Rashad that the army is the best opportunity for a Black man to succeed in the United States. Because of this, Rashad is part of the Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC. However, Rashad would rather spend his time drawing and hanging out with his friends English, Shannon, and Carlos. 

Quinn is white, and his father died in Afghanistan. Quinn lives with his mother and his younger brother, Willy, and resents that people expect him to live up to the memory of his father. Quinn’s best friends are Dwyer and Guzzo, who lives across the street. Guzzo’s brother, Paul Galluzzo, is a police officer and has acted as a father figure to Quinn ever since Quinn’s father died. Quinn, Dwyer, and Guzzo are on the basketball team together, along with English.

One Friday, Rashad and Quinn are each planning on going to a party with their friends at Guzzo and Paul’s cousin Jill’s house. Quinn has a crush on Jill. On the way to the party, Rashad stops at Jerry’s Corner Mart to pick up some chips and gum. Jerry’s is always monitored by a police officer as a response to shoplifting incidents at the store. While Rashad is picking out chips, he goes to text his brother, Spoony. His phone is in his bag, so he puts it on the floor and kneels down to take the phone out. While he is kneeling, a woman who was standing behind him backs up and trips over him, causing them both to fall over and Rashad’s chips to slide up the aisle. 

The police officer on duty comes over and asks what happened but assumes Rashad was trying to steal before Rashad or the woman can explain. The police officer drags Rashad outside, handcuffs him, throws him to the ground, and begins beating him. Meanwhile, Quinn and his friends have been waiting in the alley next to Jerry’s to ask an adult to buy them beer that they can take to the party. When Quinn goes around to the front of Jerry’s, he sees what the police officer is doing to Rashad. He recognizes the police officer as Paul Galluzzo. He tells his friends to run and, when they are far enough away, explains what happened and tells Guzzo that he saw his brother. The three decide to go to the party and try to forget about it.

Over the weekend, Rashad wakes up in the hospital with a broken nose and ribs and is told he needs to stay there so the doctors can monitor his internal bleeding. Rashad’s father questions whether Rashad was presenting himself in a way that made him seem dangerous, while Spoony is outraged at the situation. The local news obtains footage of Paul beating Rashad and begins covering the story. The Galluzzo family decides to have a cookout on Sunday, which Quinn and Jill both find strange. Quinn and Jill talk at the cookout about what Paul did to Rashad, while Paul and Guzzo try to intimidate Quinn into not saying anything about what he saw.

At school that week, everyone is talking about what happened to Rashad. Quinn feels conflicted as he has only ever seen the good side of Paul and doesn’t know Rashad. On Tuesday, someone has painted graffiti on the sidewalk in front of the school that says, “Rashad is absent again today.” This message creates a division in the school between those who believe Rashad was innocent and those who believe Paul was just doing his job. When Rashad sees a picture of the graffiti, he knows it is Carlos’s work. 

Spoony and his girlfriend, Berry, plan a protest that coming Friday against the police department. Guzzo continues to question Quinn’s loyalty. At first, Quinn wants to believe that Paul was just trying to do his job, but he just can’t forget what he saw outside Jerry’s. On Thursday, Quinn wears a shirt to school that says, “I’m marching. Are you?” The coach of the basketball team tells the players not to go to the protest and tells Quinn he will call his mother to tell her about his shirt. Quinn’s mother confronts him about the protest, and Quinn says he is standing up for what he believes in, just as his father would have done.

The doctor releases Rashad from the hospital on Thursday, and Rashad plans on joining the protest the following day. On Friday morning, Rashad and Quinn both feel nervous about the protest. Quinn sees a tank-like police vehicle headed toward the school and worries about the protesters’ safety. However, after talking with Jill, he understands that Black people live in fear of police violence every day and that they should put themselves at risk for one day to speak out against this reality. Rashad and Quinn, along with an enormous crowd, march from Jerry’s Corner Mart to the police department, where they stage a die-in as Berry reads aloud the names of unarmed Black people killed by police officers. Rashad and Quinn notice each other during the die-in and feel a connection as they both think of the people on the list and how they will keep fighting for them.