As time passes, Tara becomes more uncomfortably aware that establishing her own identity will require her to rebel against her father and his controlling behavior. After her father warns her again about pursuing college studies, Tara tells her mother that she doesn't think she will go to school after all. Surprisingly, her mother is insistent that Tara ought to go. Tara continues her studies while also helping her father with his scrapping work. She takes the ACT test, but does not feel confident and resigns herself to living the life her father wants her to have.
Noticing that Tara is saving money, her father starts charging her for various household contributions, and on the day her ACT scores arrive, he abruptly tells her to move out. At first her mother agrees, but she relents when Tara emphasizes that she is only sixteen. Shawn goes back to work, and defends Tara when her father demands she work on a dangerous machine known as the Shear. The confrontation between father and son shows that Shawn is getting increasingly fed up with his father, but in the end, both Shawn and Tara end up working together on the dangerous machine.
As the months pass, more and more conflicts happen between Shawn and Gene. Tara is studying to retake the ACT, hoping she can improve her score. The summer before Tara turns seventeen, Shawn is in a motorcycle accident. Tara is the only family member present and phones her father to ask what she should do. Gene tells her to bring Shawn home. Tara loads Shawn into the car, intending to drive him home, but at the last minute she changes her mind, and takes him to the hospital instead. In the end, Shawn's injury is not as bad as it appeared, and his parents bring him home. Tara knows this decision to disobey her father marks a fundamental change in their relationship.
Three weeks later, Tara receives notice that her second ACT test has earned a score high enough to make her a competitive applicant to Brigham Young University. She immediately gets a new job working at a grocery store, and submits her college application with Tyler's help. She is quickly accepted, and is scheduled to start college studies in January. She will be only seventeen. Tara and her mother try to find an apartment, but Tara is too overwhelmed to do much else in preparation for her education.
Tara moves to Utah, where she will be living with two roommates, Mary and Shannon. Although both girls are also Mormon, they are much less rigid about their faith, which Tara finds shocking. When she begins her classes, Tara realizes that she had not understood there were different levels of classes, and struggles to get into freshman-level courses. Tara is uncomfortably aware that most of her course content makes no sense to her. In this unfamiliar environment, Tara finds herself more drawn to the clarity of the faith and traditions she grew up with.
One day, in art history class, Tara asks what the word Holocaust means. Everyone assumes she is joking around, and responds coldly. After the class, Tara researches the word, and is horrified and shocked to realize her ignorance. Tara begins to disagree with her roommates about her commitment to keeping the Sabbath very strictly.