It is the summer of 1963, and on the South Side of Chicago, a high school romance is brewing between white artistic Jeffrey Stark and cute black Valerie Davis. They get to know each other by helping each other out of tough racial fixes—he saves her from attack at an all-white amusement park and she saves him from injury in a racial brawl at school. He delights in making pencil sketches of her, but as their romance blossoms, so do the racial dangers. White police target Valerie as a prostitute and black gang members see Jeffrey as trying to sexually exploit a black girl. Seemingly inevitably, the heating romance collides head on with the realities of Northern-style racism on a hot summer afternoon at one of Chicago's most beautiful Lake Michigan beaches, when a racial protest turns ugly, confronting the couple with terrible choices.