Monica Dickens's novel, first published in 1965, opens in a Juvenile court in London. One of the young offenders is a sixteen-year-old girl, Kate, who is described as being in need of care and protection. In the court is a girl only slightly older, Emma, daughter of the magistrate. From her experience of going around with a social worker on his calls she knows that adolescents and, more importantly, small children are daily subjected to neglect and brutality and that “care and protection” cannot be prescribed like aspirin. She meets Kate again, by chance,and the girls strike up a friendship.
Each girl has her way to make in life, each has her love, hate, despair and hope, each the complications of parental control sapped by the inner knowledge of marriages that no longer work.